Embodied Cognition: Body, Mind, and the Nature of Cognition

Body vs Mind | Body & Mind | Body as Mind

What is the body? What is the mind? In what ways are these two different questions? In what ways are they really the same question? And how do our answers inform our sense of who and what we are?


1. to give a body to (a spirit)

2. a. to deprive of spirituality; b. to make concrete and perceptible

3. to cause to become a body or part of a body

4. to represent in human or animal form

Embody | Merriam-Webster Dictionary

To be embodied is to be given physical form or expression. In embodied cognition, the mind is embodied or expressed through the body. At the same time there is the possibility that the mind is an embodiment or expression of the body. The basic assumptions of embodied cognition represent the perspective that the mind cannot be fully understood outside the context of the body. As the term suggests, embodied cognition philosophically opposes many of the explicit and implicit assumptions of the disembodied perspective of cognition that has dominated modern cognitive science.

While our various scientific and cultural assumptions have and continue to change over time, we know that the mind and the body are neither completely separate nor are they entirely the same. We have begun to suspect that they exist together, physically and functionally, in a complex relationship that is simultaneously independent, dependent, and interdependent. What we don’t know is how to represent the complexities of this relationship. Our challenge is to find language, images, and mental models that help us effectively think and communicate about the body, the mind, and the nature of cognition.

Parallel to the idea of the mind being independent of the body, there is the metaphysical belief that spirit is independent of form. Our understanding of religion and science also tends to fall along the same lines. As we reimagine the relationships of mind and body, perhaps we will begin to reimagine these other relationships as well.

Embodied cognition, the idea that the mind is not only connected to the body but that the body influences the mind, is one of the more counter-intuitive ideas in cognitive science. In sharp contrast is dualism, a theory of mind famously put forth by Rene Descartes in the 17th century when he claimed that “there is a great difference between mind and body, inasmuch as body is by nature always divisible, and the mind is entirely indivisible… the mind or soul of man is entirely different from the body.” In the proceeding centuries, the notion of the disembodied mind flourished …

A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition: Why You Are Not Your Brain | American Scientific: Guest Blog: Samuel McNerney