Embodied And Extended Cognition : A Better Model Of Cognition Essay

Embodied And Extended Cognition : A Better Model Of Cognition Essay

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Embodied and extended cognition are the relative 'new kids on the block ' of cognitive science, but do they offer a better model of cognition than the more traditional approaches? I will argue they do not. Certainly they provide an intriguing alternative and a promising avenue of enquiry, but as yet they have not proven themselves as a superior theory.

Traditionally, cognition is considered to occur in the brain. That is, the mind is 'internal ' or 'brainbound ' (Clark 2008, p. xxix; Wilson & Foglia 2011). In opposition to this idea are various models of 'situated cognition ' (Wilson & Foglia 2011), including embedded, embodied, extended and radical extended cognition (Chermero 2001, p. 30; Rupert 2009, pp. 4-6). Each of these models are quite different and in some case are non-compatible with each other. The extended model contends that cognition extends beyond the boundary of the body (Rupert 2009, p. 4). The embodied model contends that cognition consists of a continuous feedback loop between the brain and the body (Rupert 2009, p. 6). The embedded model contends that cognition relies heavily on the environment and 'short-cut ' heuristics, but does not extend beyond the body (Rupert 2009, p. 4). The radical embodied model similarly supports cognitive heuristics, while also including dynamic system theory and possible cognitive extension into the environment (Chermero 2001, pp. 28-30). Note that not all of these ideas can be true at the same time. What they do have in common, however, is they all challenge the traditional ideas of cognition in important ways.

The situated models all challenge the internalist idea of cognition which therefore also calls into question the identity-theory – that is, that the mind and the bra...


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...itive system is like asking if a hammer performs work. We might think a handyman and a hammer form part of a working system, or we might think that the handyman performs the work and uses the hammer as a tool to assist. I tend towards the latter.

Situated cognition is not to be discounted, however. Different models of cognition excel at solving different cognitive problems (Clark 2002, p. 123) and we might, therefore, have to consider a hybrid system of cognition (Anderson 2003, p. 116). Simply having another avenue of enquiry in cognitive science may, if nothing else, engender a better understanding of the discipline (Clark 2008, p. 218). It cannot be said, however, at this stage of our understanding of cognition, that an embodied or extended approach to cognition is better than an internalist approach. We still have a lot to learn before we can make that judgement.

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