ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2023, Vol. 55 ›› Issue (11): 1889-1902.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2023.01889

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Extended Mind: Is the brain the sole basis for realizing the mind?

SU Jiajia1, YE Haosheng1,2()   

  1. 1School of Psychology, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua 321004, China
    2Center for Embodied Cognition Research, Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
  • Received:2023-02-06 Published:2023-11-25 Online:2023-08-31
  • Contact: YE Haosheng
  • Supported by:
    *National Social Science Fund Key Project “Research on Body Movement and Psychological Development”(20FTYA002)


In the present era, humanity stands at the threshold of a new civilization spurred by scientific and technological advancements. Technologies such as the internet, computers, and smartphones have extended human cognitive abilities into machines, even altering human emotions and conscious experiences, gradually fostering the acceptance of the belief that “mental life is not confined to the brain”. This has led to the emergence of interest in the concept of “extended minds”. The concept of extended minds posits that psychological processes such as memory, thought, emotion, and sentiment are not restricted solely to the brain or the central nervous system of an organism. On the contrary, under certain conditions, the non-neuronal parts of an organism's body, the external environment, and the world at large play integral roles in realizing consciousness, exerting constitutive functions. Early research on extended minds primarily focused on investigating cognitive processes and underwent three waves of development. Later, it expanded to include extended emotions, exploring the extended attributes of emotions and sentiments. Recently, attention has been drawn to the question of whether conscious experiences can also be extended. If cognition, emotion, and conscious experiences can transcend the biological boundaries of the individual, incorporating external resources that facilitate mental processes, then psychological life may no longer be confined within the confines of the skull and skin, and the brain may not be the sole organ responsible for realizing mental life. In essence, extended minds remain grounded in the framework of embodied cognition, with a key emphasis on how to perceive the active role of the “body”. This has significant implications for redefining our understanding of the nature of psychological life.

Key words: psychological life, extended minds, extended cognition, extended emotions, extended consciousness