Digital Media in Education

research in new media learning environments

in Grounded Cognition

In this chapter Barsalou present four grounded cognition theories providing references to several empirical studies that support them. These theories “represent negative reactions to standard theories of cognition based on amodal symbols. (…) grounded theories contain insights about mechanisms central to cognition that standard theories have largely ignore such as simulation, situated action, and bodily states.” p.621

Cognitive Linguistic Theories
These theories emphasize the importance of metaphors in the way we think and speak.
People “possess extensive knowledge of their bodies (e.g., eating) and situations (e.g., verticality), and that abstract concepts draw on this knowledge metaphorically” p.621. (e.g., consumed by love) (e.g., happy is up , sad is down).
Theories of Situated Action
These theories “propose that the environment plays central roles in shaping cognitive mechanisms. Additionally, these theories focus on the close coupling of perception and action during goal achievement and increasingly on social interaction. (…) Rather than adopting computational architectures that manipulate amodal symbols, theories of situated action often adopts dynamic systems as their architecture. From this perspective, fixed representations do not exist in the brain” p.621.
Cognitive Simulation Theories
Mentioning Pavio (1986) Dual Code Theory, Barsalou presents the importance of simulation capability of the human brain and its importance to language and to process information. He presents his “Perceptual Symbol Systems” (PSS) where he supports the importance of symbolic recording systems and how important these systems are for interpreting experience and simulate new situations for predicting and preparing action. Following Damasio (1989) ideas of mind convergence zone architectures he supports the idea of multiple and dynamical simulation mechanisms that come to action for mental representation and situated action. “Similar to PSS and its situated extension, Basic System Theory [proposed by Rubin (2006)] proposes that complex memory contains many multimodal components from vision, audition, action, space, affect, language, etc., and that retrieving a memory involves simulating its multimodal components together” p.622.
Social Simulation Theories
These theories “propose that we represent other people’s minds using simulations of our own minds”p.623.
Barsalou focus the particular capacity humans and some primates to represent the mental states of others. Presenting Gallese et al. (2004) work related to mirror neurons he emphasis that mental simulation was considered to provoke stronger responses in neuron activity than performing the action itself.

The chapter is way more rich in empirical evidence presentation and further theoretical development in several related issues, and also focus the methodological approaches important for future formalization of the presented theories.

Barsalou, L.W. (2008a). Grounded cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 617-645.
Retrieved 12/05/2011, from

Damasio AR. 1989. “Time-locked multiregional retroactivation: a systems-level proposal for
the neural substrates of recall and recognition”. Cognition 33:25–62
Gallese V, Keysers C, Rizzolatti G. 2004. “A unifying view of the basis of social cognition”. Trends
Cogn. Sci. 8:396–403
Paivio A. 1986. “Mental Representations: A Dual Coding Approach”. New York: Oxford Univ. Press
Rubin DC. 2006. “The basic-systems model of episodic memory”. Perspect. Psychol. Sci. 1:277–311


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