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2011 > BSP 73: "Embodied Cognition" by Lawrence Shapiro

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message 1: by Virginia (last edited Feb 04, 2011 03:43PM) (new)

Virginia MD (gingercampbell) | 321 comments Mod
Later this month I will be interviewing Lawrence Shapiro, author of Embodied Cognition (2010).

I am also waitng for word from Antonio Damasio, but right now it appears likely that Dr. Shapiro will be featured on the next Brain Science Podcast . I think the interview will be of interest to all BSP fans, but Embodied Cognition will appeal mainly to those who are interested in the technical aspects of Philosophy of Mind; and especially the arguments between the proponents of the computational theory of mind versus emobodied approaches.

If you want to prepare for the episode you might want to listen to the following related episodes:

BSP 25 Rolf Pfeifer, author of How the Body Shapes the Way We Think
BSP 36 Art Glenberg on Embodied Cognition
BSP 57 Chris Frith, Making up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World
BSP 58 Alva Noe, author of Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain
BSP 66 Randy Gallistel, co-author of Memory and the Computational Brain


message 2: by Virginia (new)

Virginia MD (gingercampbell) | 321 comments Mod
I am interviewing Dr. Shapiro tomorrow, so if you have any questions about Embodied Cognition, be sure to post them today.


message 3: by John (new)

John Brown | 52 comments 1) This is on my mind: don't know if he will know.
Korner thinks that essential hypertension is (before changes in the artery wall) caused by a mal-learned habit in the cerebellum that prolongs the flight-or-fight response. Dendrite pruning takes place at what?
18 months and 18 years? Is pruning the cause of our inability to un-learn such responses, and can we do anything to overcome this? Obvious links to type A and type B personalities.

2) I was made redundant 2 years ago (now thankfully receiving a pension). Funnily, I experienced dreams and flashbacks to events even as long ago as in my early childhood. I took this to be my right hemisphere searching for similar experiences in the past, to guide me in my response to the current unusual situation. So my sense of self is my collection of memories? Do retrograde amnesiacs report a "loss of self", and if not, why not?

3) There are therapies for post-traumatic stress, but I can't for the moment remember them. How do they relate to an embodied "sense of self".

4) When I stopped smoking 30 years ago I would from time to time have vivid dreams that I was smoking. Now from time to time I dream that I have really been a secret smoker all this time, without admitting it even to myself. Can he explain why?


message 4: by John (new)

John Brown | 52 comments 5) Gallistel and King report that jays can remember hundreds of food caches, with their dates, and even rank those caches according to the decay rate, which they estimate from finding decayed food in the cache for which they know the caching date. Famously, humans remember only 5+/-2 things, and often I can't remember where I left my supermarket trolly. Autistics and Savants (is that the term?) can on the other hand remember better than the jay. Is normal brain development a process of inhibiting good memory, and why on earth should that have an evolutionalry benefit?


message 5: by John (new)

John Brown | 52 comments 6) All the psychology books report the experiment with inverting glasses that make the world look upside down for 2 weeks until the brain adapts. Mirror-writing can reportedly also be learned. This adaptation is hard to reconcile with what we know about the way the brain is wired. Maybe it is an adaptation only made by primates, who were used to hanging upside down. Has anybody tried it out on plains dwellers like cats? Could this be the real reason that non-primates do not recognize themselves in mirrors, and nothing to do with their general intelligence.
7) The horse raced past the barn fell.
The horse raced past the barn door.
The camel raced past the barn door.
The horse raced past the bedroom door.
Is language just the combination of frequent collocation detection, a few simple grammar rules, and a real-word ontology?


message 6: by Virginia (new)

Virginia MD (gingercampbell) | 321 comments Mod
John,

I think 1-4 will be beyond the scope of today's conversation, even though I think 3 is especially interesting.

I intend to bring up the scrub jay experiments in the context of whether the embodied cognition approach always implies rejection of computation.

Noë talked about the inverted glasses experiment during his interview in BSP 58, and I think Shapiro gives an alternative explanation in Embodied Cognition, so I hope we will have a chance to discuss that.


message 7: by John (new)

John Brown | 52 comments Ginger,
Thanks.
John


message 8: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Stoll | 1 comments John wrote: "1) This is on my mind: don't know if he will know.
Korner thinks that essential hypertension is (before changes in the artery wall) caused by a mal-learned habit in the cerebellum that prolongs th..."


John, Pat Ogden Ph.d is doing interesting work in field of trauma. Check out her book, Trauma and The Body: A Sensory Motor Approach to Psychotherapy (2009, I think).

Kelly


message 9: by John (new)

John Brown | 52 comments Kelly,
Thanks.

John


message 10: by Virginia (new)

Virginia MD (gingercampbell) | 321 comments Mod
Dr. Shapiro's interview is now out. Here is a link to the show notes for BSP 73:

http://www.brainsciencepodcast.com/bs...


message 11: by Dennis (new)

Dennis | 1 comments Thanks for the great episode. I've long been a fan of this podcast and appreciate your coverage of neuroscience, psychology and philosophy.


message 12: by Kate (new)

Kate Thomas | 2 comments Enjoyed this podcast. Fascinating. To me it is self evident that the brain cannot be regarded in isolation from the body.


message 13: by Virginia (new)

Virginia MD (gingercampbell) | 321 comments Mod
Kate wrote: "Enjoyed this podcast. Fascinating. To me it is self evident that the brain cannot be regarded in isolation from the body."

The importance of the body does seem self-evident, but even in medicine a sort of unofficial dualism has long reigned. For example, consider how many doctors still ignore the relationship between mental and physical health.

In the field of Artificial Intelligence, the field's pioneers assumed a simliar "brain in a vat" approach until it was discovered that things that embodied brains do easily, like recognizing faces or walking on uneven surfaces, are very difficult for robots that lack sensory-motor feedback. This realization inspired so-called "embodied artifical intelligence" (discussed in BSP 25), which has in turn inspired new approaches to understanding brain-body-environment interactions in biological systems.


message 14: by Kate (new)

Kate Thomas | 2 comments You are right about dualism in medicine! I listened to a psychology podcast recently that proposed the idea that to treat mental illness one needed to look at general health, nutrition, environmental toxins etc. as well as mental function. In other words a holistic approach. It seems as though medicine IS coming around to the idea that you must treat the whole patient not just bits of her!


message 15: by Georgem (new)

Georgem | 11 comments Dr. Shapiro: Sure it does. It influences our sense of identity. It could have an
impact on whether we think non-human species have minds. It could also have
an impact on the kind of technology we develop, because there are aspects of
embodied cognition that are very influenced by prostheses and other kinds of
artifacts that you might end up attaching to your mind in certain ways, which
hadn’t been really appreciated before embodied cognition started exploring these
claims.


I was thinking that Otto's notebook is a prosthesis. I think the notebook, since it contains information that Otto placed in it, is an extension of his mind.


message 16: by Virginia (new)

Virginia MD (gingercampbell) | 321 comments Mod
Georgem wrote: "Dr. Shapiro: Sure it does. It influences our sense of identity. It could have an
impact on whether we think non-human species have minds. It could also have
an impact on the kind of technology we d..."


The idea that Otto's notebook is an extension of his mind is the key idea in the paper by Andy Clark and David Chalmers, which is where Otto's story appears. I think there is link to this in the episode show notes.


message 17: by Samuel (new)

Samuel | 1 comments Ginger,

Wonderful interview! They just keep getting better. I kept wondering if you were going to bring up the work of Jeff Hawkins, where he talks about the role that invariant representations may play (in theory) in this discussion. Ultimately, it would make sense that the system of mind and body has to somehow create it's own dynamic (plastic) models and in my thinking, that approach rounds out the work of Shapiro nicely. I wonder if Hawkins or others who are following his work might comment?


message 18: by Keith (new)

Keith | 1 comments I must say I'm a little confused about some of the examples Dr. Shapiro used to demonstrate embodied cognition.

Take, for instance, the idea that motor output manipulates the environment with the intention of producing further input to the senses, thereby completing a feedback loop. This seems (to me) to be little more than the traditional sense-think-act sequence closed into a loop, and as such I don't see how any cognition is required outside of the brain. Instead, it just requires a particular kind of thinking to occur within the brain.

One example of embodied cognition that seemed more befitting of the term was that of the robot whose navigation relies on individual modules rather than a central processor. Yet there seems no real parallel between this example and human cognition, so I don't see how it is relevant to us.

Another example that came close was people's use of diaries, notes, and other memory and organizational aids that allow certain aspects of cognition to be carried out exterior to the brain. However, these features occur outside of the body too, so "disembodied cognition" would actually be a more suitable term for these!

Anyway, just my two cents' worth. I love this sort of podcast - the type that has me mulling over the topic hours or days after I've heard it!


message 19: by Virginia (new)

Virginia MD (gingercampbell) | 321 comments Mod
Responding to Keith's comment "I must say I'm a little confused about some of the examples Dr. Shapiro used to demonstrate embodied cognition.

Take, for instance, the idea that motor output manipulates the environment with the intention of producing further input to the senses, thereby completing a feedback loop. This seems (to me) to be little more than the traditional sense-think-act sequence closed into a loop, and as such I don't see how any cognition is required outside of the brain. Instead, it just requires a particular kind of thinking to occur within the brain."


I think the point that Dr. Shapiro is trying to make is that the traditional "sense-think-act" sequence does not include the feedback loop. The key idea is that "acting" changes "sensing" and therefore the body is part of the cognitive loop.

Of course, as Dr. Shapiro noted in the interview, there are many who would argue that this principle can be incorporated into tradational approaches to cognition.


message 20: by A (new)

A | 6 comments When I think about this subject, I'm drawn towards thinking about learning. When we talk about methods and styles of learning, especially in an academic setting, we tend to talk about it in relation to various sensory capabilities; we may classify someone as a visual, auditory, or mechanical learner and that, commonly, people tend to learn best using a combination of the senses. That seems to indicate that there is a common understanding that memory and understanding are enhanced with increased use of bodily senses. To me, this seems to fall in line with the concept of embodied cognition and I'm curious as to whether modes of learning has been topic of discussion within this area.

(I realize I'm late with this comment. If you can give any feedback, it would be appreciated, but I understand if I missed the boat.)


message 21: by Virginia (new)

Virginia MD (gingercampbell) | 321 comments Mod
A wrote: "When I think about this subject, I'm drawn towards thinking about learning. When we talk about methods and styles of learning, especially in an academic setting, we tend to talk about it in relatio..."

While the subject of learning did not really come up during Dr. Shapiro's interview, it was mentioned in some detail by his colleague Dr. Arthur Glenberg back in BSP 36. Dr. Glenberg has done research that shows that these principles can be used to help young children learn to read.

Also, Dr. John Medina (BSP 37), who is very involved in applying neuroscientific findings to learning believes that is is very important to involve as many senses as possible to enhance both learning and memory.

Even people who are in college now (and constantly texting with there thumbs) report that taking notes by hand while listening to a lectures helps them remember. (I base this on a conversation I had with my niece recently)


message 22: by Georgem (new)

Georgem | 11 comments Re taking notes: I worry about missing info while trying to write notes :(
I'm deciding what to write down while of course, the lecture goes on.


message 23: by Virginia (new)

Virginia MD (gingercampbell) | 321 comments Mod
Georgem wrote: "Re taking notes: I worry about missing info while trying to write notes :(
I'm deciding what to write down while of course, the lecture goes on."

Its been a while since I was a student, but I think how you take notes in a class depends on the type of lecture you are listening to. It is rare that the lecture is the only source of the information, so I suggest writing down only things that seem important--to remind yourself to study them later.

When I go to continuing medical education meetings it is typical to receive a print out of the speaker's slides (often to small to read). I write down things that seem important, but rarely have the need to ever look at these notes again (since we aren't usually being tested). I guess old habits are hard to break!


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