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Acta Psychologica Sinica    2018, Vol. 50 Issue (4) : 462-472     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.00462
 Body and cognitive representation: Understandings and divergences
 YE Haosheng; MA Yankun; YANG Wendeng
 (Center for Mind and Brain Science, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006)
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Abstract   What is meant by “body” here? There are many understandings about what the human body is, which promote a variety of research programs in cognitive science in general and cognitive psychology in particular. The classical information-processing model of cognitive psychology treated the body as a biophysical substance that is different from the mind as a mental substance. Therefore, as a science of mind, the body has always been ignored and relegated to the position of a “physiological basis” of the mind. The classical cognitive psychology is founded on the idea that brain is something like a digital computer in which the physical structure of the brain is like a hardware, and the cognition is a software. In other words, the cognition was assumed as a computation of a computer. Usually, computation is understood as the rule-governed manipulation of representations, therefore, it requires the assumption that the mind contains some cognitive representations of aspects of the objective world that is independent of our perceptual and cognitive capacities. The cognitive representations are abstract symbols and they are amodal and exist independent of structures and functions of the body. As if the body is only a “carrier” or “container” of the mind. In contrast, embodiment theories of cognitive psychology had tried to distance itself from the classical cognitive psychology, highlighting the pervasiveness of in cognition of bodily factors. Right now, there are many approaches and programs sailing under the banner of “embodied cognition.” A “moderate” or “weak” approaches to embodied cognitive psychology do not separate the body from the mind. They take the body as more in mind, and want to elevate the importance of the body in explaining cognitive processes. From the point of view of the moderates, cognition is in essence a kinds of bodily experience, and the nature of our bodies shapes our very possibilities for our thinking and feeling. For the moderates, cognition is still involved in mental representation and computable processing which are staples of classical cognitive psychology. However, the cognitive representations are not disembodied symbols, but are body-formatted or body-related codes. The “radical” or “strong” approaches to embodied cognitive psychology claim that cognitive systems do not rely on internal representations and computations. Human cognition should be explained without the ascription of representational mental states. Our cognition is essentially grounded in the brain as it is integrated with our body. The nature of our cognitive processes is determined by the specific action possibilities afforded by our body. Our cognitive system is for action, and about solving problems for the organism, not for forming cognitive representations. Cognition is essentially a embodied action.
Keywords cognition      representation      embodied cognition      body      mind      enactivism     
Corresponding Authors: YANG Wendeng, E-mail:; MA Yankun, E-mail:     E-mail: E-mail:; E-mail:
Issue Date: 01 March 2018
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YE Haosheng, MA Yankun, YANG Wendeng.  Body and cognitive representation: Understandings and divergences[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica,2018, 50(4): 462-472.
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