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This guide accompanies the following article: Emily Balcetis and Shana Cole, ‘Body in Mind: The Role of Embodied Cognition in Self-Regulation’, Social and Personality Psychology Compass 3 (2009): 1–16, 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2009.00197.x

Author’s Introduction

What is the mind and how does it work? This article summarizes a new perspective on these questions, suggesting that the physical body, in the environment, interacts with the mind to influence how we think. Seemingly effortful, deliberate, and intentional judgments and decisions, like whether we want to buy a Snickers or a Mars Bar candy bar, can change depending on whether we are nodding or shaking our heads. That is, judgments might actually be less a conscious choice and more a reaction to basic bodily systems than once supposed. Furthermore, this article suggests that the influences of body states on judgment processes may serve an important purpose, and that is to provide information to help people accomplish their goals. The influence of the body on the mind might be one tool to aid the self-regulation system. As Andy Clark (2001) advanced, the mind is not naked but is instead clothed in the actions of the body and the environment. People do not think any thought, reach any haphazard judgment, form any random conclusion, but instead, as touted by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1999), our minds think only what our embodied minds allow.

This article serves as an introduction to a debate in philosophy, cognitive science, and neuroscience regarding the mind. Is cognition a separate system unto itself? Do perceptual, cognitive, and action systems interact to influence each other?

Authors Recommend

On Embodiment Theory

Clark, A. (2008). Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension. New York: Oxford University Press.

In Supersizing the Mind, Clark argues that our thinking is not located only in our heads but that some, if not most, types of cognition cross the boundaries of brain, body and world. The world and objects in the world are all extensions of the mind. Drawing upon recent work in psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, robotics, human-computer systems, and beyond, Supersizing the Mind suggests a conception of mind that is extended rather than brain-bound. If our minds themselves can include aspects of our social and physical environments, then the kinds of social and physical environments we create can reconfigure our minds and our capacity for thought and reason.

Spivey, M. J. (2007). The Continuity of Mind. New York: Oxford University Press.

The Continuity of Mind argues that comprehending a spoken sentence, understanding a visual scene, or just thinking about the day’s events involves the coalescing of different neuronal activation patterns over time. This book argues that most cognitive processes are richly embedded in their environmental context in real time. It presents a systematic overview of how perception, cognition, and action are partially overlapping segments of one continuous mental flow, rather than three distinct mental systems. These seemingly separate mental constructs turn out to be fuzzy graded transitions of the same process. This book presents behavioral and neurophysiological evidence that portray the continuous temporal dynamics inherent in categorization, language comprehension, and visual perception, as well as attention, action, and reasoning. It discusses what the mind itself must look like if its activity is continuous in time and its contents are distributed in state space. While the traditional information-processing framework in psychology, with its computer metaphor of the mind, is still considered to be the mainstream approach, this book argues for a dynamical-systems perspective on mental activity.

Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 9, 625–636.

This article distinguishes and evaluates the following six claims of embodied cognition: (1) cognition is situated; (2) cognition is time-pressured; (3) cognitive processes are relegated and off-loaded onto the environment; (4) the environment is part of the cognitive system; (5) cognition is for action; (6) offline cognition is body based. Empirical and philosophical evidence is provided to test these basic tenants of embodied cognition.

Winkielman, P., Niedenthal, P., & Oberman, L. (2008). The embodied emotional mind. In Semin, G. R., & Smith, E. R. (Eds.) Embodied Grounding: Social, Cognitive, Affective, and Neuroscientific Approaches (pp. 263–288). New York: Cambridge University Press.

The environment is filled with emotionally significant information. In nearly every social interaction, an individual might be confronted with facial, vocal, and postural signs of emotion. Emotionally charged objects can capture attention, bias perception, modify memory, and guide judgments and decisions. This chapter suggests how this process might work via an embodied cognition approach. This chapter suggests embodiment theories can be considered in light of general debates about the nature of mental representation, and it reviews evidence for the embodiment account in several domains of emotion processing.

On Self-Regulation

Forgas, J. P., Baumeister, R. F., & Tice, D. M. (2009). Psychology of Self-Regulation: Cognitive, Affective, and Motivational Processes. New York: Psychology Press.

This book presents contributions from leading researchers who have evidence showing the subtle and often nonconscious ways that the people seek to regulate their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in everyday social life. The book suggests how people can improve their ability to control their actions, make decisions about which goals to pursue, and maintain and manage goal-oriented behavior, and it discusses what happens when people run out of self-regulation resources.

Boekaerts, M., Zeidner, M., & Pintrich, P. R. (2000). Handbook of Self-Regulation. Sand Diego, CA: Academic Press.

This book discusses empirical findings, theories, and applications of self-regulation research from some of the leading contributors to the field. Its uniquely interdisciplinary perspective makes it applicable to audiences across myriad psychological domains. The first part of the book discusses broad theories, models, and frameworks of self-regulation. The second section discusses more specific models of self-regulation processes as they apply in domains such as organizational behavior, health behavior, and education. Finally, the third section discusses self-regulation research in terms of interventions and applications in clinical psychology and educational settings and suggests challenges for future research in the field.

Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P.M. (2001). Goal setting and goal striving. In A. Tesser & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Intraindividual Processes. Volume 1 of the Blackwell Handbook in Social Psychology. Editors-in-chief: M. Hewstone & M. Brewer (pp. 329–347). Oxford: Blackwell.

This chapter discusses the psychological and situational determinants of and processes behind the formation of goals. In addition, it discusses how goal pursuit or implementation begins. The second half discusses how different types or qualities of goals predict the likelihood of goal attainment. Successful strategies for goal pursuit and attainment are discussed.

Online Materials

How the Mind Works

The Mind and Vision

This video gives an example of the interaction between the mind and body, perception, and action. Specifically, golfers who’ve played well perceive the hole as bigger than it really is.

Pieces of Mind: Scientific American Frontiers (TV Episode)

In Scientific American Frontiers: Pieces of Mind, viewers can see some of the current research being done on how the mind works. The episode describes the split-brain phenomenon, memory, and dreams.

Changing Your Mind: Scientific American Frontiers (TV Episode)

In the segment, The Sight of Touch, In Scientific American Frontiers: Changing Your Mind, describes the experience 24-year-old Michelle Geronimo had when she was blindfolded and studied Braille for 5 days. Scientists wanted to see whether this radical change in incoming information would promote particular adaptations in her brain.

Transcript of additional interview: http://www.pbs.org/saf/1101/index.html

Lobotomies

The story of one man’s attempt to understand how, why, and the consequences of the frontal lobotomy procedure performed on him when he was 12 years old.

Story of the Cornell Wilder Brain Collection

Article describes collection of brains including Helen Hamilton Gardener, a suffragist who donated her brain to prove that women’s brains were in no way inferior to men’s. She was right. In addition, it describes Edward Howard Rulloff, a convicted murderer who was hanged in 1871 in Binghamton and also was suspected of murdering his wife and child, though their bodies were never found.

Photographs from the Cornell Wilder Brain Collection

Photographs

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Sample Syllabus

Week 1: Introduction and Overview

Weeks 2–5: Embodied Cognition

Week 2: Embodied Cognition: A Broad Overview

Readings:

Clark, A. (2008). The active body. Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension (pp. 3–28). New York: Oxford University Press.

Clark, A. (2008). Disentangling embodiment. Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension (pp. 196–218). New York: Oxford University Press.

Clark, A. (2008). Conclusions: Mind as mashup. Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension (pp. 218–269). New York: Oxford University Press.

Week 3: Perspectives on the Structure of the Mind

Readings:

Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (1994). Origins of domain-specificity: The evolution of functional organization. In L. A. Hirschfeld & S. L. Gelman (Eds.), Mapping the Mind: Domain-Specificity in Cognition and Culture (pp. 85–116). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Pinker, S. (1997). Standard equipment. How the Mind Works (pp. 3–59). New York: Norton.

Fodor, J. (2000). Introduction: Still snowing. The Mind Doesn’t Work That Way: The Scope and Limits of Computational Psychology (pp. 1–7). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Carruthers, P. (2005). Distinctively human thinking: Modular precursors and components. In P. Carruthers, S. Laurence & S. Stich (Eds.), The Innate Mind: Structure and Contents (pp. 69–88). New York: Oxford University Press.

Prinz, J. J. (2006). Is the mind really modular? In R. J. Stainton (Ed.), Contemporary Debates in Cognitive Science (pp. 22–36). New York: Blackwell.

Week 4: Empirical Evidence for Embodied Cognition

Readings:

Riskind, J. H., & Gotay, C. C. (1982). Physical posture: Could it have regulatory or feedback effects on motivation and emotion? Motivation and Emotion, 6, 273–298.

Cacioppo, J. T., Priester, J. R., & Bernston, G. G. (1993). Rudimentary determination of attitudes: Arm flexion and extension have differential effects on attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 5–17.

Brinol, P., & Petty, R. E. (2003). Overt head movements and persuasion: A self-validation analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 1123–1139.

Friedman, R. S., & Forster, J. (2000). The effects of approach and avoidance motor actions on the elements of creative insight. Journal of Psychology, 111, 43–62.

Forster, J. (2004). How body feedback influences consumers’ evaluations of products. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 14, 416–426.

Week 5: Theories of Embodied Cognition

Readings:

Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 9, 625–636.

Markman, A. B., & Brendl, C. M. (2005). Constraining theories of embodied cognition. Psychological Science, 16, 6–10.

Winkielman, P., Niedenthal, P., & Oberman, L. (2008). The embodied emotional mind. In Semin, G. R., & Smith, E. R. (Eds.) Embodied Grounding: Social, Cognitive, Affective, and Neuroscientific Approaches (pp. 263–288). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mahon, B. Z., & Caramazza, A. (2008). A critical look at the embodied cognition hypothesis and a new proposal for grounding conceptual content. Journal of Physiology, Paris, 102, 59–70.

Weeks 6–9: Self-Regulation

Week 6: Goals

Readings:

Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P.M. (2001). Goal setting and goal striving. In A. Tesser & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Intraindividual Processes. Volume 1 of the Blackwell Handbook in Social Psychology. Editors-in-chief: M. Hewstone & M. Brewer (pp. 329–347). Oxford: Blackwell.

Fitzsimons, G. M., Friesen, J., Orehek, E., & Kruglanski, A. W. (2009). Progress-induced goal shifting as a self-regulatory strategy. In J. P. Forgas, R. F. Baumeister, & D. M. Tice (Eds.), Psychology of Self-Regulation: Cognitive, Affective, and Motivational Processes. New York: Psychology Press.

Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2009). Making goal pursuit effective: Expectancy-dependent goal setting and planned goal striving. In J. P. Forgas, R. F. Baumeister, & D. M. Tice (Eds.), Psychology of Self-Regulation: Cognitive, Affective, and Motivational Processes. (pp. 127–146). New York: Psychology Press.

Week 7: Self-Regulation

Readings:

Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. (2007). Self-regulation, ego depletion, and motivation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1, 115–128.

Lewis, M. D., & Todd, R. M. (2007). The self-regulating brain: Cortical-subcortical feedback and the development of intelligent action. Cognitive Development, 22, 406–430.

Gailliot, M. T., Baumeister, R. F., DeWall, C. N., Maner, J. K., Plant, A., Tice, D., Brewer, L. E., & Schmeichel, B. J. (2007). Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: Willpower is more than a metaphor. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 325–336.

Forgas, J. P., Baumeister, R. F., & Tice, D. M. (2009). The psychology of self-regulation: An introductory review. In J. P. Forgas, R. F. Baumeister, & D. M. Tice (Eds.), Psychology of Self-Regulation: Cognitive, Affective, and Motivational Processes. New York: Psychology Press.

Week 8: The Role of Positive Affect

Readings:

Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1990). Origins and functions of positive and negative affect: A control-process view. Psychological Review, 97, 19–35.

Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., DeWall, C. N., & Zhang, L. (2007). How emotion shapes behavior: Feedback, anticipation, and reflection, rather than direct causation. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11, 167–203.

Tice, D. M. (2009). How emotions affect self-regulation (2009). In J. P. Forgas, R. F. Baumeister, & D. M. Tice (Eds.), Psychology of Self-Regulation: Cognitive, Affective, and Motivational Processes. New York: Psychology Press.

Carver, C., Scheier, M. F. (2009). Action, affect, multi-tasking, and layers of control. In J. P. Forgas, R. F. Baumeister, & D. M. Tice (Eds.), Psychology of Self-Regulation: Cognitive, Affective, and Motivational Processes. New York: Psychology Press.

Week 9: The Role of Embodied Cognition in Self-Regulatory Processes

Readings:

Balcetis, E., & Cole, S. Body in mind: The role of embodied cognition in self-regulation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3, 759–774.

Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. (2009). Embodied goal pursuit. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 1210–1213.

Week 10: Presentation of Class Projects

Focus Questions

  • 1
     What evolutionary pressures would lead to the creation of an embodied cognitive system?
  • 2
     What constraints or limitations are there on the types of goals that would benefit from the recruitment of an embodied cognitive system?
  • 3
     What is the role of affect and emotion in embodied cognition?
  • 4
     What other functions, other than aiding in self-regulatory processes, can an embodied mind serve? What future directions can empirical embodied cognition investigations undertake?

Seminar/Project Idea

Individual Project: What Systems Interact with Cognition?

Based on the knowledge they have acquired over the course of the semester, each student will fashion a new experiment that tests whether perceptual or motor systems interact with cognition. Example empirical research questions include:

  • 1
     Can tapping a foot faster change judgments the passage of time?
  • 2
     Can playing with soft, fuzzy animals rather than cold, hard rocks change judgments of the friendliness of a stranger?
  • 3
     Can the smell of cookies change judgments of one’s own physical fitness? As part of the project, students should:
  • 1
     Propose a research question that can be tested
  • 2
     Write a specific, testable hypothesis
  • 3
     Write a justification for the specific prediction made
  • 4
     Describe the methods and procedures that could be used to test the research question
  • 5
     Gather pilot data from 10 friends and family who undergo the procedures you designed
  • 6
     Present an overview of the project in class. Students are encouraged to be creative, yet still propose an idea that can be justified according to existing research theoretical logic.