- Sheila L. MacrineSheila L. MacrineUniversity of Massachusetts Dartmouth
- and Jennifer M.B. FugateJennifer M.B. FugateUniversity of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Embodied cognition theories are different from traditional theories of cognition in that they specifically focus on the mind–body connection. This shift in our understanding of how knowledge is acquired challenges Cartesian, as well as computational theories of cognition that emphasize the body as a “passive” observer to brain functions, and necessary only in the execution of motor actions. Historically, mental representations within the brain were typically considered abstractions of the original information (i.e., mental representations). Accordingly, these amodal (disembodied) theories provided the knowledge used in cognitive processes, but did not reflect the original sensorimotor states themselves. In contrast, Embodied cognition provides a starting point to advance our understanding of how perceptual, sensorimotor and multisensory approaches facilitate and encourage learning throughout the lifespan. Derived from embodied cognition, embodied learning constitutes a contemporary pedagogical theory of knowing and learning that emphasizes the use of the body in educational practice. Embodied learning approaches scientifically endorse and advance sensorimotor learning, as well as offer potentially useful tools for educators. This article begins with a discussion on the historical progression of embodied understanding in the disciplines of philosophy, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience, with a focus on how embodied cognition differs from traditional models of cognition. Empirical evidence from varied field domains (e.g., reading, handwriting, STEM fields, haptic technology, mixed reality, and special education) are presented that show how embodied learning increases and facilitates learning and memory. Discussions within each content area draw upon embodied principles and show why the reviewed techniques facilitate learning. Also discussed are examples on how these principles can be further integrated into educational curriculum, with an eye toward the learner as a unified whole.