From the Revolution to Embodiment: 25 Years of Cognitive Psychology

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2013 Sep;8(5):573-85. doi: 10.1177/1745691613498098.


In 1988, the cognitive revolution had become institutionalized: Cognition was the manipulation of abstract symbols by rules. But, much like institutionalized political parties, some of the ideas were becoming stale. Where was action? Where was the self? How could cognition be smoothly integrated with emotions, with social psychology, with development, with clinical analyses? Around that time, thinkers in linguistics, philosophy, artificial intelligence, biology, and psychology were formulating the idea that just as overt behavior depends on the specifics of the body in action, so might cognition depend on the body. Here we characterize (some would say caricature) the strengths and weaknesses of cognitive psychology of that era, and then we describe what has come to be called embodied cognition: how cognition arises through the dynamic interplay of brain controlling bodily action controlling perception, which changes the brain. We focus on the importance of action and how action shapes perception, the self, and language. Having the body in action as a central consideration for theories of cognition promises, we believe, to help unify psychology.

Keywords: action; cognition; communication; language; memory; performance.