Eroding the Boundaries of Cognition: Implications of Embodiment

Some notes from the Michael L. Anderson, Michael J. Richardson, Anthony Chemero paper:

  • There is, for example, ample evidence that verb retrieval tasks activate brainareas involved in motor control functions, and naming colors and animals (i.e., processingnouns) activates brain regions associated with visual processing (Damasio & Tranel, 1993;Damasio, Grabowski, Tranel, Hichwa, & Damasio, 1996; Martin, Haxby, Lalonde, Wiggs,& Ungerleider, 1995; Martin, Ungerleider, & Haxby, 2000; Martin, Wiggs, Ungerleider, &Haxby, 1996; Pulvermu ̈ller, 2005)
  • It appears that perceiving manipulable arti-facts, or even just seeing their names, activates brain regions that are also activated bygrasping (Chao & Martin, 2000).
  • And there are myriad demonstrations of interactionsbetween language and motor control more generally, perhaps most striking the recent find-ings that manipulating objects can improve reading comprehension in school-age children(Glenberg, Brown, & Levin, 2007).
  • In other words, only systems with component-dominant dynamics can bemodular; when dynamics are interaction dominant, it is difficult to localize the aspects ofparticular operations in particular parts of the system.
  • For example, Dotov, Nie, and Chemero (2010, in press)and Nie, Dotov, and Chemero (in press) describe experiments designed to induce and thentemporarily disrupt an extended cognitive system. Participants in these experiments play asimple video game, controlling an object on a monitor using a mouse. At some point during722M. L. Anderson, M. J. Richardson, A. Chemero⁄Topics in Cognitive Science 4 (2012)
  • The 1-minute trial, the connection between the mouse and the object it controls is disrupted temporarily before returning to normal. Dotov et al. found 1⁄f scaling at the hand-mouse interface while the mouse was operating normally, but not during the disruption. As dis-cussed above, this indicates that, during normal operation, the computer mouse is part of the smoothly functioning interaction-dominant system engaged in the task; during the mouseperturbation, however, the 1⁄f scaling at the hand-mouse interface disappears temporarily,indicating that the mouse is no longer part of the extended interaction-dominant system.
  • These results all indicate that the boundary between a cognitive agent and his or her environment is malleable
  • This means that there is no specific brainarea responsible for, say, object identification. Indeed, instances of object identificationmight be accomplished by a softly assembled coalition of components spanning brain,body, tools, and, even, other agents. Second, the traditional cognitive faculties, those thatwere traditionally assumed to be accomplished by anatomical modules, can no longer be distinguished from one another. Perception, action, judgment, language, and motor con-trol use the same neural real estate assembled into distinct coalitions.