Embodied cognition

More interesting reading from the New Scientist:

“We tend to view the mind as an aloof, disembodied entity but it is becoming increasingly clear that the whole body is involved in the thinking process. Without input from your body, your mind would be unable to generate a sense of self or process emotions properly. Your body even plays a role in thinking about language and mathematics. And physiological sensations, such as those from your heart and bladder, influence such diverse personal attributes as the strength of your tendency to conform, your willpower and whether you are swayed by your intuitions or governed by rational thought.

In the past few years, discoveries about mind-body connections have overturned the long-held view of the body as a passive vehicle driven by the brain. Instead there is more of a partnership, with bodily experiences playing an active role in your mental life. “The brain cannot act independently of the body,” says Arthur Glenberg at Arizona State University in Tempe. Tune in to the body’s signals, and you can exploit this to improve your creativity, memory and self-control.”

A little more from the same article:

“That’s not all. The insular cortex also processes our internal bodily signals, including the throb of our pulse and rumble of our gut. And it turns out that people vary greatly in how good they are at detecting these, an ability known as interoception. A team led by Manos Tsakiris at Royal Holloway, University of London, found that around a quarter of volunteers were able to count their own heartbeats with an accuracy of at least 80 per cent without taking their pulse, while another quarter had little conscious awareness of it, missing the actual number by 50 per cent or more. Intriguingly, the team also found that those who were particularly good at interoception were less susceptible to embodiment illusions, perhaps because these internal sensations override the contradictory information from their eyes (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol 278, p 2470). “If you have a strong sense of self from the inside, you don’t rely so much on external information like vision and touch,” says Tsakiris.”

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