Tuesday morning, I opened up the New York Times to find yet another popular article taking up the topic. While I continue to be happy to see “embodied cognition fever” catching among the nation’s journalists, I worry ever-so-slightly that the rush to bring the fascinating research to the public may ultimately have negative consequences.
I have been interested in embodied cognition for a while and have had students in my Law and Mind Science course read some of the work in the field the last two years I taught the seminar. That led me to present some of my thoughts about the implications of the work for law last year at the Childress Lecture at St. Louis University Law School. The associated article, The Body of the Mind: Embodied Cognition, Law, and Justice is set to be published in the near future and, in the interests of trying to be a better user of SSRN, I’ve finally got around to posting a draft here.
The abstract appears below:
Recent research from embodied cognition strongly contests the dualist notion of the mind as distinct and apart from the biological machine of the body—a conception that has powerfully shaped our laws, legal practices, theories, and institutions for centuries. According to the embodied (or grounded) cognition perspective, the body is involved in the constitution of the mind. Thus, beyond our conscious awareness, an abstract concept, like trustworthiness, may be primed by sensorimotor experience, like feeling physical warmth. This Article introduces recent insights from this budding field, discusses some of the potential implications of experiments in embodied cognition for courtroom interactions, and addresses the significant challenges to using this research as a means to reform.
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To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Embodied Situation of Metaphors,” “Our Metaphorical Situation,” “The Situation of Metaphors,” “Bargh and Baumeister and the Free Will Debate — Part I & Part II” “The Situation of Body Temperature,” “Social Psychology and the Unconscious: The Automaticity of Higher Processes,” “Unclean Hands,” “The Body Has a Mind of its Own,” “Ideology Shaping Situation, or Vice Versa?,” “The Situation of Snacking,” “The Situation of Imitation and Mimickry,” and “The (Unconscious) Situation of our Consciousness – Part I, Part II, Part III, & Part IV.”