Please wait a minute...
Acta Psychologica Sinica
Theoretical Analysis of the Meaning of Embodiment
YE Haosheng
(Center for Mind and Brain Science, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China)
Download: PDF(414 KB)   Review File (1 KB) 
Export: BibTeX | EndNote | Reference Manager | ProCite | RefWorks    

The topic of embodiment has received a great deal of attention and aroused much enthusiasm within cognitive science in general and psychology in particular. The connotation of embodiment refers essentially to the dependency of cognition on agent’s own body. The classical cognitive science committed to the view of disembodied mind. That is, cognition involves algorithmic processes upon symbolic representations. These theories posit no role for body in cognitive processes. They claimed that Mental processes such as perception, memory and thinking et al are independent of bodily structure and functioning. The view of “weak embodiment”argues against disembodiment, and claims that the body should be understood as playing a role in implementing the function of computation and representation that underpins our cognitive capacities. In contrast, the view of “strong embodiment”entirely eschews the computational theory of cognition. It assigns embodiment a degree of significance in the shaping of the character of cognition. From the point of view of strong embodiment, cognitive processes are profoundly reflect the body’s interactions with the world. In contemporary embodied cognitive science, there is a radically different stance that also has roots in diverse branches of cognitive science. It resulted in a great deal of diversity in how to understand the meaning of embodiment. We distinguished the following four views: (i) embodiment is understood as a kind of somatic learning. From this point of view, embodiment and somatic learning are used interchangeably. Both are associated with a kind of bodily experiences from body’s interaction with outside world. (ii) embodiment involves lived experiences coming from a body with a special neurophysiological structure, which means embodiment is a kind of experience from which cognition is made. Different body intends to make different experience, and different experience make, in turn, different cognition. (iii) embodiment is a way of knowing. We need a brain and a body to make sense of the world around us, and to understand the meaning of “chair”or “cat”, then significant differences in forms of embodiment will translate into distinct conceptual metaphors and image schemas which structure our systems of everyday thought. (iv) embodiment means that cognitive processes can not located in a brain alone. The boundary between a cognitive agent and his or her environment should be broken down. Cognition is hybrid processes, it straddle both internal and external operations. In author’s opinion, cognition’s embodiment means that: (i) cognizing agent’s body is a constituent of cognitive processes, and bodily structure and functioning are imprinted on mental processes, which influence our mental processes such as thinking, categorization, attitude, learning and emotion et al. (ii) perception is not the internal reconstruction of the external world. Perception of the environment is the result of the agent’s bodily actions. This kind of actions shape the perception of the agent. (iii) body is the source of meaning. It is the body that makes us into a meaningful world. Therefore, abstract meaning is based on bodily sensor-motor systems. (iv) different bodies intend to dictate different thought. If people use their physical perceptions and bodily experiences to construct cognitive processes, then the differences from our interactions with the environment should in fact make people along different way of thinking. Viewed all together, embodiment is about the consequences on cognition of existing as a human body. We are not “having a body”, we are “existing as a body”. The answers to the meaning of embodiment will have considerable theoretical and practical significance for the community of psychology.

Keywords embodiment      embodied cognition      embodied mind      body      psychology     
Corresponding Authors: YE Haosheng   
Issue Date: 25 July 2014
E-mail this article
E-mail Alert
Articles by authors
YE Haosheng
Cite this article:   
YE Haosheng. Theoretical Analysis of the Meaning of Embodiment[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.001032
URL:     OR
[1] YAN Shu-Chang; GAO Zhipeng. A microhistory of psychology in letters: What happened to I. Huang’s research reports on the size-weight illusion?[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2017, 49(4): 554-568.
[2] HUO Yongquan; SONG Peipei; CHEN Xiaopu; ZHU Yi; CHEN Yuanyuan. The orientation of Bruner’s psychological research at his later age and its academic relevance[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2017, 49(3): 416-426.
[3] ZHANG Jing; CHEN Wei. Is body image plastic? The impact of synchrony and distance reference frame on body ownership[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2016, 48(8): 933-945.
[4] WANG Jiaying; CHEN Bin-Bin. The influence of childhood stress and mortality threat on mating standards[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2016, 48(7): 857-866.
[5] LI Xiaodan; DU Jianzheng; YE Haosheng. Bidirectionality metaphorical effect of Chinese ritual culture: Contractive postures make people humble[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2016, 48(6): 746-756.
[6] LIU Chuanjun; XIN Yong; ZHANG Fuhong; FENG Chun; CHEN Youping. Environment dependent effect of body movement promoting spatial updating[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2016, 48(6): 648-657.
[7] YE Haosheng. The significances of mirror neurons[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2016, 48(4): 444-456.
[8] LIU Wenjuan; SHEN Manqiong; LI Ying; WANG Ruiming. The interaction between emotional concept processing and emotional face perception[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2016, 48(2): 163-173.
[9] LIU Siyun; ZHOU Zongkui; LI Na. The Impact of Cyber-Experience on Action Verb Processing[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2015, 47(8): 992-1003.
[10] ZHANG Dandan; ZHAO Ting; LIU Yunzhe; CHEN Yuming. Comparison of Facial Expressions and Body Expressions:  An Event-related Potential Study[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2015, 47(8): 963-970.
[11] YANG Huilan; HE Xiayou; ZHAO Xueru; ZHANG Wei. Multiple Metaphorical Representations of Power: Evidence from Size and Color[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2015, 47(7): 939-949.
[12] LI Xiaodan; YE Haosheng. Embodied Cognition in Ancient Chinese Confucianism and Taoism[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2015, 47(5): 702-710.
[13] TANG Peipei; YE Haosheng; DU Jianzheng. The Spatial Size Metaphor of Power Concepts: A Perspective from Embodied Cognition[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2015, 47(4): 514-521.
[14] CHEN Yongxiang;ZHU Liqi. Associations of Body Parts and Early-Learned Mandarin Verbs and Their Effect on AoA of These Verbs[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2014, 46(7): 912-921.
[15] LI Huijuan;ZHANG Jijia;ZHANG Ruixin. The Vertically Spatial Metaphors of Kinship words of Qiang Nationality[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2014, 46(4): 481-491.
Full text



Copyright © Acta Psychologica Sinica
Support by Beijing Magtech