Can cognition be reduced to action? Processes that mediate stimuli and responses make human action possible

Barsalou, L. W. (2016) Can cognition be reduced to action? Processes that mediate stimuli and responses make human action possible. In: Engel, A. K., Friston, K. J. and Kragic, D. (eds.) The Pragmatic Turn: Toward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science. Series: Strüngmann forum reports, 18. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. ISBN 9780262034326 (doi: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034326.003.0005)

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After treating action as peripheral for decades, cognitive scientists increasingly appreciate the fundamental roles it plays throughout cognition. This chapter proposes that the central roles of action in human cognition depend on important processes that mediate between stimuli and responses. The unique features of human cognition reflect not only a remarkable potential for action, but also powerful abilities that mediate action in response to the environment. Sophisticated action results from sophisticated mediation, e.g., from mediating processes associated with representation, conceptualization, internal state attribution, affect, and self-regulation. Integrated with action systems, these mediating processes endow humans with unusually flexible and powerful means of shaping their physical and social environments. Without taking these mediating processes into account, it is difficult to explain human action as well as basic cognitive phenomena associated with memory, concepts, categorization, symbolic operations, language, problem solving, decision making, motivation, emotion, reward, self, mentalizing, and social cognition. Instead of reducing cognition to action, an alternative is to develop a viable theory that does justice to the importance of action in cognition, while integrating mediating processes that complement it.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barsalou, Professor Lawrence
Authors: Barsalou, L. W.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Publisher:MIT Press

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