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      Toward a more embedded/extended perspective on the cognitive function of gestures

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          Gestures are often considered to be demonstrative of the embodied nature of the mind ( Hostetter and Alibali, 2008). In this article, we review current theories and research targeted at the intra-cognitive role of gestures. We ask the question how can gestures support internal cognitive processes of the gesturer? We suggest that extant theories are in a sense disembodied, because they focus solely on embodiment in terms of the sensorimotor neural precursors of gestures. As a result, current theories on the intra-cognitive role of gestures are lacking in explanatory scope to address how gestures-as-bodily-acts fulfill a cognitive function. On the basis of recent theoretical appeals that focus on the possibly embedded/extended cognitive role of gestures ( Clark, 2013), we suggest that gestures are external physical tools of the cognitive system that replace and support otherwise solely internal cognitive processes. That is gestures provide the cognitive system with a stable external physical and visual presence that can provide means to think with. We show that there is a considerable amount of overlap between the way the human cognitive system has been found to use its environment, and how gestures are used during cognitive processes. Lastly, we provide several suggestions of how to investigate the embedded/extended perspective of the cognitive function of gestures.

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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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              Intelligence without representation

               Rodney Brooks (1991)

                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                24 April 2014
                : 5
                1Department of Social Sciences, Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands
                2Early Start Research Institute, University of Wollongong Wollongong, NSW, Australia
                Author notes

                Edited by: Guy Dove, University of Louisville, USA

                Reviewed by: Hecke Schrobsdorff, Max-Planck-Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, Germany; Olivier Le Guen, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Mexico

                *Correspondence: Wim T. J. L. Pouw, Department of Social Sciences, Institute of Psychology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, T-Building, Room T13-36, 3062 PA Rotterdam, South Holland, Netherlands e-mail: pouw@ 123456fsw.eur.nl

                This article was submitted to Cognitive Science, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

                Copyright © 2014 Pouw, de Nooijer, van Gog, Zwaan and Paas.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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