Theresa Schilhab`s presentation at the conference
Grounding Nature Based
Program for Future Technologies, Culture and Learning
University of Aarhus
On line vs off line cognition
Off line as mentally exhausting
The profit a) restoring attention b) anchors
Handlebars to remember
Abstract knowledge and TOM
To experience and remember
& literally to
The collection of
abilities we use
to navigate in
Traditional view on cognition
• Classic models of information processing in the cognitive
sciences allow sensory, motor, and emotional experience to
be represented as stripped of their perceptual and
experiential basis. In such models, largely inspired by the
metaphor of ”mind as a computer” information taken in by
the different sense modalities is preserved in memory in the
form of abstract symbols.
P. Niedenthal (2007). Embodying emotion. Science, 316: 1002 1005
[H]uman cognition, rather than being centralized, abstract, and sharply distinct from
peripheral input and output modules, may instead have deep roots in sensorimotor
Wilson, M. (2002). Six views on embodied cognition. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9(4), 625–635.
…Conference in October 2007
Grounded & Embodiment theory
“The essence of embodied theories of cognition is that the body particularly bodily
systems that have evolved for perception, action, and emotion, contribute to “higher”
cognitive processes. Many of these cognitive processes are important to education,
such as language comprehension, reading, mathematics and scientific thinking”.
A. M. Glenberg (2008). Embodiment for education. In P. Calvo & T. Gomila (Eds.), Handbook of cognitive
science. An embodied approach (pp. 355–372). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Embodiment theory proposes that neural systems for perception and action are also engaged during language comprehension.
Glenberg, et al. (2008). The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2008, 61(6), 905 919.
Simulation or the hypothesis that concepts simulate the sensory and motor experiences of real world encounters with instances of
concepts has been prominent in psychology and cognitive neuroscience.
Chatterjee (2010). Disembodying cognition. Language and Cognition 2 1, 79 116.
Grounded cognition reflects the assumption that cognition is typically grounded in multiple ways, including simulations, situated
cognition , and, on occasion, bodily states.
Barsalou, L.W. (2008). Grounded cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 617–645.
Recent basic cognitive research and theory in perceptually grounded or embodied cognition provides a framework for considering
how we can deepen and increase student learning and understanding by having them develop a “feel” for what they are learning
in addition to knowing about it.
Black, J.B. (2010) An Embodied/Grounded Cognition Perspective on Educational Technology. In M.S. Khine & I.M. Saleh (Eds.), New
Science of Learning. Cognition, Computers and Collaboration in Education. (pp. 45 52) London: Springer.
Simulation in cognition
• Conceptual (as in reading) knowledge of
cinnamon González, J., Barros Loscertales, A., Pulvermüller, F.,
Meseguer, V., Sanjuán, A., Belloch, V. and Ávila, C. (2006), Reading
cinnamon activates olfactory brain regions, NeuroImage, 32, 906 912.
• Sensibility assessments
Zwaan, R. A., Stanfield, R. A., & Yaxley, R. H. (2002). Language
comprehenders mentally represent the shapes of objects. Psychological
Science, 13(2), 168–171.
’The ranger saw the eagle in its nest’
“The representation of
meaning from linguistic
input is a dynamic
than the mechanical
combination of discrete
meaning”, p. 170
”Activation of primary
olfactory areas by words with
olfactory semantic associations
supports the idea that perceptual
information associated with the
reference of a word is important
for its neural representation”, p.
Perception – cold and hot drinks
Stimulation of subjects’ inclination to
evaluate the personality of a described
person on a scale as more or less ‘warm’
Williams & Bargh, 2008, Science, 322, 606 607
How to win a game of trivial pursuit?
• 60 subjects
• 3 groups: 1 control, 2 experimental
Dijksterhuis, A & van Knippenberg, A., 1998. The relation between perception and behavior, or how to win a
game of trivial pursuit. Journal of personality and social psychology, 74(4): 865 877.
• Answering 42 questions in trivial pursuit advanced level:
Who painted La Guernica?
What is the name of the capital of Bangladesh?
Correct answers (%)
• Since thinking of professors
might be more satisfying than
thinking of secretaries…
• 59 subjects (9 min.) imagining
The portrait was created by British artist Morgan
Penn, which represent some of the members of
the Millwall Bushwackers, one of the most violent
football club hooligan groups in England.
Correct answers (%) *= significance
Barsalou, L. W. (2009). Simulation, situated conceptualization, and prediction. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B
364, 1281 1289
“When an entity or event is experienced, it
activates feature detectors in the relevant
neural systems. During visual processing of a
bicycle, for example, neurons fire for edges
and surfaces, whereas others fire for colour,
configural properties and motion. The overall
pattern of activation across this hierarchically
organized distributed system represents the
entity in vision. Analogous patterns of
activation in other sensory modalities
represent how the bicycle might sound and
feel. Activations in the motor system
represent actions on the bicycle. Activations
in the amygdale and orbitofrontal areas
represent affective reactions.”
FIRE together WIRE together
Linguistic representations are included
In the FTWT circuit
• Abstract knowledge is a challenge to studies within the ’embodied cognition’
and ’grounded cognition’ research program.
• What about entities or events that are ’never experienced absent
phenomena’, ’Democracy’ , ’Unicorns’ or ’Pangaea’?
On line to off line cognition
Stone Heads on Easter Island?
• ”Humans can learn through verbal
instruction. For example, you might fear a
neighborhood dog because the dog once bit
you. However, you might also fear a
neighborhood dog because your neighbor
mentioned in conversation that it is a mean
dog that might bite you. In the second
scenario, there is no direct experience with
the dog and an aversive event; rather, there
is awareness and understanding of the
aversive properties of the dog.”
Phelps, E. A. (2005). The interaction of emotion and cognition: The relation between the human amygdala and
cognitive awareness. The new unconscious. R. R. Hassin, J. S. Uleman and J. A. Bargh. Oxford, Oxford University
Press: 61 76.
* Schilhab (2011). Derived embodiment and imaginative capacities in interactional expertise. Phenomenology and the Cognitive
• Derived embodiment occurs in linguistic acquisition processes in the
absence of actual interaction with the environment and on line (direct)
• Understanding is obtained by ‘borrowing’ and associating embodiment from
previous first person experiences to the current learning episode.
• Depends on attentive interactions with a competent interlocutor to evoke
the appropriate images and feelings.
To both re enact and create
the internal landscape
Processes behind derived embodiment
“A ‘summit’ is
like the top of
a very large
’…the top of a very large hill’ (FTWT)
‘…the top of a
very large hill’
‘…the top of a
very large hill’
Why outdoor learning?
Off line cognition is exhausting
On line cognition
Both implicit &
“For example, when you sip a cup of coffee you are conscious of ….a rapid shift in the
temperature of your mouth. If drinking coffee is part of your regular routine, the
neurons involved would fire together many times. Through repetition, a durable FTWT
circuit ….would be formed. “
When durable FTWT circuits of an event such as drinking coffee are formed, whether by
constant repetition or by an intense event, the brain includes with that circuit not only
explicit associations (the restaurant in Belize, where you had the best coffee, ever) but
also a variety of nuances in smell, variations in colour of the foam on top of the cup, or
even the subtleties associated with the brown eyed person who waited on you. These
implicit associations are stored as tacit knowledge. Sheckley, B. G. and Bell, S. (2006). "Experience,
consciousness, and learning: Implications for instruction." New directions for adult and continuing education 110: 43 53.
The thought of
Larger neuronal ensemble
Smaller neuronal ensemble
Grounding nature based learning
• Learning is grounded
• We need experiences (on line) to expand knowledge
• Sharing by talking consolidates the experience