Embodied Cognition at the Crossroads of
Philosophy, Linguistics, Psychology and Artificial Intelligence

May 13-15, 2021, Cluj-Napoca, ROMANIA

Section 9A


9A: Epistemology and methodology of research in embodied cognition



Saturday 15/5, 13:40-14:40



Pankaj Singh

Affiliation: Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, India
Title: An Attempt towards Holistic Theory of Problem Solving through Embodied Cognition
Abstract: Since the cognitive revolution around the 1950s, cognition has been considered as computational-representational processes, analogical to symbol-manipulation processes of a computer. Following the trend, the theory of problem solving which emerged from the information processing theory paradigm was the outcome of extensive work on problem solving by Allen Newell and Herbert Simon (1972). Their theory, also known as information processing theory of problem solving, limited the processes of problem solving to the heuristic search in a mentally generated representation of the problem. The framework of information processing theory of problem solving confined the problem solving to the working of the brain processes. The role of the body on human cognition either got neglected completely or got limited it to minor relevance – which was the effect of dualistic and functionalist views in several academic disciplines. However, in the last two to three decades, body and its impact are on reconsideration in several research areas such as developmental psychology, biology, language, neuroscience, and philosophy. Such consideration of body has paved the way for the development of embodied cognition, which emphasizes on the constitutive role of the physical body in cognitive processes. Cognition in embodied cognition is conceptualized as emergent phenomena resulting from interaction and coupling between, brain, body, and environment of an agent. An agent in such conceptualization is an active, embodied person, situated in the world rather a disembodied brain in a vat. In the paper, I argue that human problem solving is also a dynamic, embodied, and situated activity. Problem solving should not be understood as a search in a mentally represented problem space but as an embodied exploration of the surrounding environment. In the paper, I will also evaluate the various arguments of both the compatibilist approach and radical version of embodied cognition thesis. Based on the compatibilist approach of embodied cognition, I propose a holistic theory of problem solving. Embodied cognition theorists who endorse a compatibilist view (e.g., Clark 1997) to research are hedging their bets and leaving open the possibility of utilizing tools from multiple theoretical frameworks. Through embodied cognition, in the paper, I am attempting to come up with a holistic picture of cognition by analyzing the domain of problem solving. The holistic theory of problem solving is an inclusive effort to reconcile the intuitions of embodied cognition and cognitivist model of cognition. In my endeavor for the holistic theory of problem solving, apart from picking insights from the literature of embodied cognition, I would also borrow the wisdom from John Dewey (1938a) who also heavily emphasized the organism-environment interaction to make sense of cognition holistically. References Clark, A. (1997). Being there. Putting brain, body, and world together again. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Dewey, J. (1938a). Logic: The theory of inquiry. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Newell, A., & Simon, H. A. (1972). Human problem solving (Vol. 104, No. 9). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.


A. Dumbravă, C. Isloi

Affiliation: Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases "G.Georgescu"
Title: p-Hacking the Body: Questionable Research Practices and Replication Failures in Embodied Cognition Research
Abstract: The already notoriously famous replication crisis has by now earned its own extended and well-referenced Wikipedia entry, with the replication crisis in psychology accounting for most of the article. While the battles in the field have been drawing out for almost a decade over various results in many research areas, a series of replication attempts encompassing several famous results in embodied cognition have been at the forefront of the replication crisis throughout its evolution. Originally hailed as the future of cognitive science, the systematic failure to stand up to methodologically sound scrutiny to the point of stigma, combined with the eagerness of transforming questionable results into financially rewarding book deals and speaking engagements without regard for potential conflicts of interest are significantly and increasingly cumbering embodied cognition research, both by diminishing its credibility as an area of empirical interest, as well as through providing no useful data to build new research on. While empirical exploration of purely perceptual correlates of embodied cognition has held up well, this data has frequently been outdistanced by the previously mentioned results claiming more dramatic and spectacular insight into higher cognitive and affective processing via embodied processes. When not entirely failed, recent attempts to replicate these results following adequate methodological guidelines have revealed such slight effect sizes that the entire empirical undertaking now appears wasteful and counterproductive. Despite this, uncritical coverage by authors obviously aware of their replicability difficulties continues to be widespread in their pop science work, sometimes directly at odds with technical discussions published in scientific journals. We discuss the present state of embodied cognition, as well as suggestions for methodological improvement in future research.


A. Dumbravă, C. Isloi, S.Matu, R.Nechifor

Affiliation: Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases "G.Georgescu"
Title: The Quiet Resolution of Existential Neuroscience: Neuroimaging Ontology
Abstract: In a 2007 book chapter, neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni announced the advent of a field he titled existential neuroscience. Reviewing embodied cognition work from various neuroscientific teams across the United States and Europe, Iacoboni asserted this work to have amounted to a quiet revolution in social neuroscience, claiming it to be similar enough to Martin Heidegger's concept of of being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-sein) as to warrant the "existential neuroscience" badge. Later, the label was adopted by neuroimaging teams in Europe exploring the neural correlates of mortality reminders, although suggesting little conceptual relatedness to Iacoboni's use of the term. A significant body of evidence from Terror Management Theory (TMT) suggests that reminding individuals of the inevitable conclusion of their biological life arouses distinct cognitive and behavioral defence mechanisms, moderated by a number of variables, amongst which self-esteem has sistematically been shown to influence the way they respond to mortality reminders. Troughout the years, a significant amount of behavioral data has shown that embodied cognition seems to influence the way individuals respond to reminders of their own inevitable mortality. The enduring success of TMT research has attracted interest from neuroimaging teams in Europe and Asia, whose work has also suggested that embodied cognition is plausibly involved in processing mortality reminders. While some evidence from Terror Management Theory suggests that there is little difference between asking individuals to ponder their own mortality or just death in general and that these types of variables generally produce similar behavioral outcomes, functional neuroimaging data has shown that the neural correlates of pondering personal mortality seem to differ from neural correlates of thinking about mortality in general, with additional behavioral data pointing to the same subtle difference. Although existentialism has occasionally been denounced as being too heterogeneous to represent an actual philosophical school of thought, a number of writings from authors generally associated by scholars with this label converge on the same qualitative distinction between general and personal mortality reminders. However, we argue that this apparent conceptual overlap does not warrant the use of the existentialist designation in order to describe neuroimaging research, be it Iacoboni's use or its usage in neuroimaging of mortality awareness and suggest an alternate conceptual framework for this area of empirical inquiry. In recent years, the replication crisis has significantly undermined psychology's scientific credibility, with embodied cognition research at the forefront of troubled replicability. In neuroimaging research, recent criticism has argued that undisclosed flexibility in testing spatial hypotheses allows presenting virtually any result as replicated. We argue that this warrants additional replication efforts in TMT neuroimaging research and present preliminary results from a high-powered replication attempt of mortality reminder research carried out in a Romanian sample, as well as discussing potential criticism with regard to the neural correlates of embodied processing of death-related stimuli.


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