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      On Staying Grounded and Avoiding Quixotic Dead Ends

      review-article
      Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
      Springer US
      Concepts and categories, Grounded cognition, Abstraction, Context

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          Abstract

          The 15 articles in this special issue on The Representation of Concepts illustrate the rich variety of theoretical positions and supporting research that characterize the area. Although much agreement exists among contributors, much disagreement exists as well, especially about the roles of grounding and abstraction in conceptual processing. I first review theoretical approaches raised in these articles that I believe are Quixotic dead ends, namely, approaches that are principled and inspired but likely to fail. In the process, I review various theories of amodal symbols, their distortions of grounded theories, and fallacies in the evidence used to support them. Incorporating further contributions across articles, I then sketch a theoretical approach that I believe is likely to be successful, which includes grounding, abstraction, flexibility, explaining classic conceptual phenomena, and making contact with real-world situations. This account further proposes that (1) a key element of grounding is neural reuse, (2) abstraction takes the forms of multimodal compression, distilled abstraction, and distributed linguistic representation (but not amodal symbols), and (3) flexible context-dependent representations are a hallmark of conceptual processing.

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          Most cited references66

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          Grounded cognition.

          Grounded cognition rejects traditional views that cognition is computation on amodal symbols in a modular system, independent of the brain's modal systems for perception, action, and introspection. Instead, grounded cognition proposes that modal simulations, bodily states, and situated action underlie cognition. Accumulating behavioral and neural evidence supporting this view is reviewed from research on perception, memory, knowledge, language, thought, social cognition, and development. Theories of grounded cognition are also reviewed, as are origins of the area and common misperceptions of it. Theoretical, empirical, and methodological issues are raised whose future treatment is likely to affect the growth and impact of grounded cognition.
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            Perceptual symbol systems.

            Prior to the twentieth century, theories of knowledge were inherently perceptual. Since then, developments in logic, statistics, and programming languages have inspired amodal theories that rest on principles fundamentally different from those underlying perception. In addition, perceptual approaches have become widely viewed as untenable because they are assumed to implement recording systems, not conceptual systems. A perceptual theory of knowledge is developed here in the context of current cognitive science and neuroscience. During perceptual experience, association areas in the brain capture bottom-up patterns of activation in sensory-motor areas. Later, in a top-down manner, association areas partially reactivate sensory-motor areas to implement perceptual symbols. The storage and reactivation of perceptual symbols operates at the level of perceptual components--not at the level of holistic perceptual experiences. Through the use of selective attention, schematic representations of perceptual components are extracted from experience and stored in memory (e.g., individual memories of green, purr, hot). As memories of the same component become organized around a common frame, they implement a simulator that produces limitless simulations of the component (e.g., simulations of purr). Not only do such simulators develop for aspects of sensory experience, they also develop for aspects of proprioception (e.g., lift, run) and introspection (e.g., compare, memory, happy, hungry). Once established, these simulators implement a basic conceptual system that represents types, supports categorization, and produces categorical inferences. These simulators further support productivity, propositions, and abstract concepts, thereby implementing a fully functional conceptual system. Productivity results from integrating simulators combinatorially and recursively to produce complex simulations. Propositions result from binding simulators to perceived individuals to represent type-token relations. Abstract concepts are grounded in complex simulations of combined physical and introspective events. Thus, a perceptual theory of knowledge can implement a fully functional conceptual system while avoiding problems associated with amodal symbol systems. Implications for cognition, neuroscience, evolution, development, and artificial intelligence are explored.
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              Active perception: sensorimotor circuits as a cortical basis for language.

              Action and perception are functionally linked in the brain, but a hotly debated question is whether perception and comprehension of stimuli depend on motor circuits. Brain language mechanisms are ideal for addressing this question. Neuroimaging investigations have found specific motor activations when subjects understand speech sounds, word meanings and sentence structures. Moreover, studies involving transcranial magnetic stimulation and patients with lesions affecting inferior frontal regions of the brain have shown contributions of motor circuits to the comprehension of phonemes, semantic categories and grammar. These data show that language comprehension benefits from frontocentral action systems, indicating that action and perception circuits are interdependent.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                lawrence.barsalou@glasgow.ac.uk
                Journal
                Psychon Bull Rev
                Psychon Bull Rev
                Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
                Springer US (New York )
                1069-9384
                1531-5320
                25 April 2016
                25 April 2016
                2016
                : 23
                : 1122-1142
                Affiliations
                Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, 58 Hillhead Street, Glasgow, G12 8QB UK
                Article
                1028
                10.3758/s13423-016-1028-3
                4974262
                27112560
                6deab992-6a47-420a-9282-9a9452acb737
                © The Author(s) 2016

                Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

                Categories
                Theoretical Review
                Custom metadata
                © Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2016

                Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry
                concepts and categories,grounded cognition,abstraction,context

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