From the late 1950s until 1975, cognition was understood mainly as disembodied symbol manipulation in cognitive psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and the nascent field of Cognitive Science. The idea of embodied cognition entered the field of Cognitive Linguistics at its beginning in 1975. Since then, cognitive linguists, working with neuroscientists, computer scientists, and experimental psychologists, have been developing a neural theory of thought and language (NTTL).
Central to NTTL are the following ideas: (a) we think with our brains, that is, thought is physical and is carried out by functional neural circuitry; (b) what makes thought meaningful are the ways those neural circuits are connected to the body and characterize embodied experience; (c) so-called abstract ideas are embodied in this way as well, as is language. Experimental results in embodied cognition are seen not only as confirming NTTL but also explained via NTTL, mostly via the neural theory of conceptual metaphor.
Left behind more than three decades ago is the old idea that cognition uses the abstract manipulation of disembodied symbols that are meaningless in themselves but that somehow constitute internal “representations of external reality” without serious mediation by the body and brain. This article uniquely explains the connections between embodied cognition results since that time and results from cognitive linguistics, experimental psychology, computational modeling, and neuroscience.