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About this book

This book clarifies the role and relevance of the body in social interaction and cognition from an embodied cognitive science perspective. Theories of embodied cognition have during the last decades offered a radical shift in explanations of the human mind, from traditional computationalism, to emphasizing the way cognition is shaped by the body and its sensorimotor interaction with the surrounding social and material world.

This book presents a theoretical framework for the relational nature of embodied social cognition, which is based on an interdisciplinary approach that ranges historically in time and across different disciplines. It includes work in cognitive science, artificial intelligence, phenomenology, ethology, developmental psychology, neuroscience, social psychology, linguistics, communication and gesture studies.

The theoretical framework is illustrated by empirical work that provides some detailed observational fieldwork on embodied actions captured in three different episodes of spontaneous social interaction and cognition in situ.

Furthermore, the theoretical contributions and implications of the study of embodied social cognition are discussed and summed up. Finally, the issue what it would take for an artificial system to be socially embodied is addressed and discussed, as well as the practical relevance for applications to artificial intelligence (AI) and socially interactive technology.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction

This introductory chapter presents the research domain, describes the aim and motivations of the research, and addresses its theoretical significance to cognitive science as well as some practical relevance to artificial intelligence and socially interactive technology. Furthermore, the research process is described, and the relationship between body, embodiment, and embodied cognition, is discussed, disentangling some misconceptions of embodiment, and describing how I view these concepts.

Jessica Lindblom

Chapter 2. Body and Mind—A Historical Perspective

This chapter provides an overview of the history of the conceptions of the relation between mind and body. It begins with the ideas of Plato and Descartes, continuing via Darwin’s work to behaviorism, various (alternative) approaches of agent-environment interaction to the rise of the cognitive revolution in the mid-1950s. The inception of cognitive science resulted in computationalism and the main characteristics of the traditional approach and the criticism thereof are addressed. The final section of the chapter summarizes the main ideas concerning the relation between mind and body from the Ancient Greeks to computationalism.

Jessica Lindblom

Chapter 3. Embodied Cognitive Science

This chapter describes why and how embodied and situated approaches to cognition became relevant in the mid-1980s. It also offers an overview of basic ideas, characteristics, levels and concepts relevant to embodied cognitive science. Subsequently it portrays different approaches to, and views of, embodiment and embodied cognition in current embodied cognitive science, and also discusses several notions and aspects of embodiment as well as what kind of a body is required for natural cognition and artificial intelligence (AI). In the chapter, the significance of movement in embodied cognition is especially considered, and the concept of the body in motion is introduced. Finally, the social dimension of embodiment is briefly discussed.

Jessica Lindblom

Chapter 4. Embodiment and Social Interaction

This chapter discusses different aspects of embodiment in social interaction. Experimental findings of social embodiment effects in social psychology, emotions, and attitudes are reviewed. Furthermore, phenomenological issues as well as neurological underpinnings of embodiment in social interaction are discussed. In particular, the chapter addresses embodied simulation theories, and the action-perception linkage of mirror neurons. Subsequently the focus moves on to discuss embodied linguistics, exploring the role of embodiment in language and gesture, and in particular their interrelatedness. Finally, four fundamental functions of embodiment in social interaction are identified.

Jessica Lindblom

Chapter 5. The Nature of Social Interaction and Cognition

This chapter investigates issues of social interaction and cognition, analyzing and discussing in further detail the common characteristics, levels, kinds and methods of studying social interaction and cognition. In addition, two different metaphors concerning how to view social interaction and cognition are compared and contrasted, and finally the nature and methodological study of social interaction are re-characterized, offering alternative explanations to the traditional view. It also investigates the role of the social body in motion in child development that subsequently leads to an alternative embodied explanation of how the social mind develops.

Jessica Lindblom

Chapter 6. Situating Embodied Action Within the Social and Material Sphere

This chapter motivates and describes the framework from both historical and ‘state-of-the-art’ perspectives. The first section can be regarded as a short summary of the ideas portrayed in the previous chapters, which subsequently progresses to the final framework for the embodied nature of social interaction and cognition.

Jessica Lindblom

Chapter 7. Empirical Work

This chapter concerns the empirical part of the book. The first section describes and motivates the research design of the empirical work. The following sections and their subsections describe the conducted case study in different social situations in which different aspects of embodied actions of socially interactive cognition are the focus of analysis. The case study also offers unforeseen empirical findings of embodied actions within socially interacting and cognition. The chapter ends with a discussion and some conclusions concerning the synthesis of the theoretical and empirical work.

Jessica Lindblom

Chapter 8. Discussion and Conclusions

This chapter summarizes the main contributions of this book, compares it with related work, and considers what kind of a body is necessary for cognition as well as the uniqueness of human cognition. It also discusses some methodological issues, and presents some implications to AI and socially interactive technology. It also offers some ideas for future research, and the book concludes with some closing remarks.

Jessica Lindblom


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