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Lectures 11 & 12: Embodiment and Social Cognition Barsalou, L.W. (2008). Grounded Cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 617-645. Niedenthal, P.M.

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Presentation on theme: "Lectures 11 & 12: Embodiment and Social Cognition Barsalou, L.W. (2008). Grounded Cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 617-645. Niedenthal, P.M."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lectures 11 & 12: Embodiment and Social Cognition Barsalou, L.W. (2008). Grounded Cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, Niedenthal, P.M. et al. (2005). Embodiment in Attitudes, Social Perception, and Emotion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 9,

2 A Thought Experiment! A man goes into a bar to tell a joke. Two people are in the bar, one is smiling and one is frowning. Who is more likely to get the punch line and appreciate the joke? Mr. Smile or Mr Frown?

3 Experimental Observations: Posture While adopting either a conventional working posture or one of two so-called ergonomic postures, in which the back was straight and the shoulders were held high and back or in which the shoulders and head were slumped, experimental participants learned that they had succeeded on an achievement test completed earlier. Those who received the god news in the slumped posture felt less proud and reported being in a worse mood than participants in the upright or working posture. Stepper & Strack (1993)

4 Experimental Observations: Valence Images that typically evoke emotionally positive and negative responses were presented on a computer screen. Experimental participants were asked to indicate when a picture appeared by quickly moving a lever. Some participants were instructed to push a lever away from their body, whereas others were instructed to pull a lever toward their body. Participants who pushed the lever away responded to negative images faster than to positive images, whereas participants who pulled the lever toward themselves responded faster to positive images. Duckworth et al. (2002)

5 Experimental Observations: Decent Pen? Under the guise of studying the quality of different headphones, participants were induced either to nod in agreement or to shake their heads in disagreement. While they were testing their headphones with one of these two movements, the experimenter placed a pen on the table in front of them. Later, a different experimenter offered the participants the pen that had been placed on the table earlier or a novel pen. Individuals who were nodding their heads preferred the old pen, whereas participants who had been shaking their heads preferred the new one. Tom et al. (1991)

6 Experimental Observations: Do You Agree? Nodding the head (as in agreement) while listening to persuasive messages leads to more positive attitudes toward the message content than shaking the head (as in disagreement). Well and Petty (1980)

7 Experimental Observations: Is That Nice? Novel Chinese idiograms presented during arm flexion (a action associated with approach) were subsequently evaluated more favourably than idiograms presented during arm extension (an action associated with avoidance). Cacioppo et al. (1993)

8 A Wee Digression: The Mind-Body Problem Dualism body - works like a machine (obeys laws of physics) mind - non-material (functions mysteriously) Problem - how can the mind influence the body (and vice versa)? as it turns out, very easily!

9 Knowledge Representation: How is Information Stored in the Brain? What is the nature of knowledge? it is generally agreed that the processing of any mental content, including social information, involves internal symbols of sort (i.e., mental representations - symbolic processing). But what are these representations? How do representations derive their meaning (i.e., symbol grounding problem - Harnard, 2003)? Amodal vs. Modal Architectures

10 Amodal Architectures Mind as computer metaphor hardware vs. software (Block, 1995) body vs. mind (independent) high-level cognitive operations (inference, categorization, memory) is performed using abstract, amodal symbols that bear arbitrary relations to the perceptual states that produce them (Newell & Simon, 1972)

11 An Amodal Dog Sensory-Motor Information (modality-specific systems) what do dogs look like? what sounds do dogs make? how do dogs smell? how do dogs move? etc multi-sensory information transformed into amodal symbolic representation mental operations (e.g., thinking) are then undertaken on these amodal (e.g., language) representations

12 An Amodal Person: Knowledge Accumulation When interacting with a person, amodal symbols redescribe the experienced perceptions, actions, and introspections to establish a conceptual representation of the interaction in long-term memory. As our knowledge of such interactions grows, the underlying amodal systems become organized into structures that represents concepts (e.g., schemas) extracted from experience. Amodal redescriptions of social experience constitute social knowledge.

13 Amodal Architectures: Some Problems What exactly is the redescription process that produces amodal symbols from modality-specific (e.g., perception, action) states? no evidence exists for such a process in the brain There is no compelling evidence that the brain contains amodal symbols. The amodal symbol account is at odds with the available empirical evidence.

14 Embodied Architectures Researchers have recently adopted the notion that knowledge is embodied or grounded in bodily states and in the brains modality-specific systems (Barsalou, 1999). The basic idea underlying theories of embodied cognition is that cognitive representations and operations are grounded in their physical context. Rather than relying on amodal abstractions that exist independently of their physical instantiation, cognition relies on the brains modality-specific and on actual bodily states. Perceptual Symbol Systems (PSS - Barsalou, 1999)

15 Perceptual Symbol Systems: Barsalou (1999) modality-specific states that represent perception, action and introspection in on-line situations are also used to represent these situations in the off-line processing that underlies memory, language and thought. rather than using amodal redescriptions of on-line modality- specific states to represent situations, the cognitive system uses reenactments (simulations) of them instead. the key notion of PSS is that simulations of perceptual, motor, and introspective experience underlie the representation and processing of knowledge. reenactment (simulation) of processing operations in modality-specific systems (i.e., think about a dog).

16 Evidence for Embodied Social Cognition Attitudes Social Perception Emotion

17 Embodiment of Attitudes Darwin (1904) defined an attitude as a collection of motor behaviours - especially posture - that convey an organisms response toward an object. body involved in attitudinal processing

18 (On-Line) Embodiment of Attitudes Participants instructed to nod or shake their heads while wearing headphones, under the pretext that the research was designed to investigate whether the headphones slipped off while the listeners moved to music. While nodding or shaking, participants heard either an agreeable or disagreeable message about a university-related topic. Later they rated how much they agreed with the message. Movements modulated judgments (nod = agree with message, shake = disagree with message). Wells & Petty (1980)

19 (Off-Line) Embodiment of Attitudes Participants generated the names of famous people and later classified the people according to whether they liked, disliked, or were neutral about them. During the name generation task, participants either pulled up on the table in front of them from underneath its bottom surface (an approach behaviour) or pushed down on its top surface (an avoidance behaviour). Participants who performed the approach behaviour during name generation retrieved more names of people they liked, whereas those who performed the avoidance action retrieved more names of people they disliked. Forster & Strack (1997, 1998)

20 (On-Line) Embodiment of Social Perception Neonates imitate basic facial gestures such as tongue protrusion and mouth opening. Meltzoff and Moore (1977, 1989) synchrony, behavioural cordination speech rate accent syntax walking speed Facilitates rapport and harmony (LaFrance, 1985)

21 (Off-Line) Embodiment of Social Perception Embodiment of social perception when targets are not present. Category priming (e.g., grey, Florida, bingo) and subsequent walking speed. Participants walked more slowly when primed with elderly stereotype. Bargh et al. (1996)

22 (Off-Line) Embodiment of Social Perception Participants formed impressions of people with whom they might later work on a problem- solving task. Some of these people were competent while others were incompetent. Facial EMG was measured. Participants were more likely to display positive facial reactions when their imagined partners were competent rather than incompetent. Vanman et al. (1997)

23 Embodiment of Social Perception: Recent Findings Prior to an impression-formation task, participants were required to hold (during a brief elevator journey) a cup of hot or iced coffee. Afterwards, they gave their impressions of a stranger. Participants considered the target to have more favourable traits (e.g., generous, caring) when they previously held the hot rather than cold cup. Williams and Bargh (2008)

24 A Soothing Hand

25 That Stinks! Participants were required odors that generated feelings of disgust. The same participants then watched videos of other individuals expressing disgust. Results showed that areas of the anterior insula were activated both when individuals observed disgust in others and when they experienced disgust themselves. Wicker et al. (2003)

26 (On-Line) Embodiment of Emotion Researchers told participants that they were studying adaptations for people who had lost the use of their hands. Such individuals would need to use their mouths to hold pencils for writing, or to use a television remote. The study was to assess whether the unpleasantness or difficulty of these tasks affected peoples responsiveness." The current study on people with full use of their hands was simply designed to test the procedure.The participants then held a pencil in their teeth (which naturally activates the muscles typically used for smiling) or lips (which does not activate those muscles) and then rated several cartoons for funniness. Those who were (unknowingly) "smiling" rated the cartoons as funnier than people who were not smiling. Strack et al. (1988)

27 Neural Simulation: Perceiving vs. Imagining

28 Emotion Recognition Recognizing a facial expression of emotion in another person and experiencing that emotion oneself involve overlapping neural structures. Mirroring

29 That Stinks! Participants were required odors that generated feelings of disgust. The same participants then watched videos of other individuals expressing disgust. Results showed that areas of the anterior insula were activated both when individuals observed disgust in others and when they experienced disgust themselves. Wicker et al. (2003)

30 Mirroring and Observational Learning An important consequence of emotional resonance is that one can learn from the experience of others. Imaging research has revealed similar changes in brain activity (ACC) of a female participant when painful stimulation was applied to her own hand and to her partners hand. This suggests that observational learning may be supported by a reenactment of the emotional experience of the model in the observer. Singer et al. (2004)

31 Things Worth Knowing 1.What is embodiment? 2.How and when do bodily states impact cognition?


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