College of Columbia
York, NY 10027 E-mail:email@example.com Office:
- William James
The Embodiment Lab, we explore hypotheses that flow from the assumption
that the mind exists to serve the body. Several implications of this
philosophical stance that have guided our research are: 1) That it is
not only true that the mind can influence the body, but that the body
can influence the mind; 2) When we think or feel, our mental
representations will be directly related to perception and action; and
3) That studying the perceptual and motor functions of various
thoughts, feelings, and brain states can help us to understand why,
when, and how they come about.
Embodiment philosophy has been explored by a range of researchers with
very different interests. Some recent examples include linguistic
metaphor [1, 2], empathy , and the construction of robots that can
adapt to novel environments .
approach has the potential to illuminate answers to a
number of age-old quandaries because it represents a shift in one of
the basic assumptions that underwrote the science and philosophy of
mind in the last century . Behaviorism and then cognitive
computational models of the mind tried to make sense of human physical
and mental activity with little reference to how the physical and
mental interacted [6, 7]. Behaviorism basically ignored the role of the
mind, conceiving of all human behavior as a series of predictable
reactions , and cognitive approaches regarded the mind like a
computer, where the body hosting the mind played no role in its
calculations and had no effect on its capabilities [e.g. 9, 10]. In
contrast, embodiment theories attempt to understand the mind as a set
of physical processes derived throughout the brain and body of a human,
that ultimately serve his/her action in the physical world.
Consider just a few of our favorite findings, inspired by an embodiment
philosophy, which illustrate a broad range of phenomena heretofore
unexplored or underexplored. 1) People holding a clipboard that was
weighted so as to be heavier overestimated the value of various foreign
currencies – by indicating how many Euros they believed they
would need to pay to exchange currencies . 2) Holding a cup of warm
coffee can lead a person to feel socially “warmer”
towards another person . 3) A man who, due to a viral illness, lost
all cutaneous touch and proprioceptive feedback below the neck, was
severely limited in
his ability to guess how heavy an item was that another person was
lifting . This causality suggests that a mental representation of
physical sensation, or specifically a bodily simulation of what it
would feel like to lift what he saw another person lift, was necessary
to accurately assess the weight of the object. 4) Key brain regions
– i.e. the anterior
insular cortex – involved in
the subjective sense of the physiological condition of the body (e.g.
of temperature, pain, muscle position, etc.) also appear to be crucial
for normal emotional experience, and a sense of the self .
In The Embodiment Lab, we consider classic problems in emotion and
social psychology with an eye towards how an embodiment perspective can
lead us to ask novel questions. Please read about our research. Whether
or not you are persuaded by the philosophical approach, we hope you
will find yourself intrigued by the results of studies created by
exploring this emerging approach to the mind.
1. Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied
Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. 1999, New York: Basic Books.
2. Kovecses, Z., Metaphor in Culture: Universality and Variation. 2005,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
3. Jabbi, M., M. Swart, and C. Keysers, Empathy for positive and
negative emotions in the gustatory cortex. Neuroimage, 2007. 34(4): p.
4. O'Reilly, R.C., Biologically-based computational models of
high-level cognition. Science, 2006. 314: p. 91-94.
5. Damasio, A.R., Descartes Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human
Brain. 1994, New York: Avon Books.
6. Searle, J.R., The Rediscovery of the Mind. 1992, Cambridge, MA: MIT
7. Gibbs Jr, R.W., Embodiment and Cognitive Science. 2005, Cambridge,
MA: Cambridge University Press.
8. Watson, J.B., Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological
Review, 1913. 20: p. 158-177.
9. Clark, A., Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together
Again. 1997, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
10. Barsalou, L.W., Grounded cognition. Annual Review of Psychology,
2008. 59: p. 617-645.
11. Jostmann, N.B., D. Lakens, and T.W. Schubert, Weight as an
embodiment of importance. Psychological Science, 2009. 20(9): p.
12. Williams, L.E. and J.A. Bargh, Experiencing physical warmth
promotes interpersonal warmth. Science, 2008. 322: p. 606-607.
13. Bosbach, S., et al., Inferring another's expectation from action:
the role of peripheral sensation. Nature Neuroscience, 2005: p.
Published online, 28 August, http://www.nature.com/natureneuroscience/.
14. Craig, A.D., How do you feel - now? The anterior insula and human
awareness. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2009. 10: p. 59-70.
15. Craig, A.D., How do you feel? Interoception: The sense of the
physiological condition of the body. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2002.
3: p. 655-666.