Extended cognition

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Extended cognition is the view that mental processes and mind extend beyond the body to include aspects of the environment in which an organism is embedded and the organism's interaction with that environment.[1] Cognition goes beyond the manipulation of symbols to include the emergence of order and structure evolving from active engagement with the world.[2]


As described by Mark Rowlands, mental processes are:[3]

  • Embodied involving more than the brain, including a more general involvement of bodily structures and processes.
  • Embedded functioning only in a related external environment.
  • Enacted involving not only neural processes, but also things an organism does.
  • Extended into the organism's environment.

This contrasts with the view of the mind as a processing center that creates mental representations of reality and uses them to control the body's behaviour. The field of extended cognition focuses upon the processes involved in this creation, and subsumes these processes as part of consciousness. Which is no longer confined to the brain or body, but involves interaction with the environment. At a 'low' level, like motor learning and haptic perception,[4] the body is involved in cognition, but there is a 'high' level where cultural factors play a role.[5][6] This view of cognition is sometimes referred to as 'enaction' to emphasise the role of interplay between the organism and its environment and the feedback processes involved in developing an awareness of, and a reformation of, the environment.[7] For example Japyassú and Laland argue that some spider's web is something between part of its sensory system and an additional part of its cognitive system.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert D Rupert (August 2004). "Challenges to the Hypothesis of Extended Cognition" (PDF). The Journal of Philosophy. 101 (8): 389–428. doi:10.5840/jphil2004101826.
  2. ^ Tim van Gelder (1999). "Chapter 8: Wooden Iron? Husserlian Phenomenology Meets Cognitive Science". In Jean Petitot; Francisco J Varela; Bernard Pachoud; Jean-Michel Roy (eds.). Naturalizing Phenomenology: Issues in Contemporary Phenomenology and Cognitive Science. Stanford University Press. p. 252. ISBN 978-0804736107.
  3. ^ Mark Rowlands (2010). "Chapter 3: The mind embedded". The new science of the mind: From extended mind to embodied phenomenology. MIT Press. pp. 51 ff. ISBN 978-0262014557.
  4. ^ Pietro Morasso (2005). "Consciousness as the emergent property of the interaction between brain, body, & environment: the crucial role of haptic perception" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-05-08. Slides related to a chapter on haptic perception (recognition through touch): Pietro Morasso (2007). "Chapter 14: The crucial role of haptic perception". In Antonio Chella; Riccardo Manzotti (eds.). Artificial Consciousness. Academic. pp. 234–255. ISBN 978-1845400705.
  5. ^ Carl Ratner (2011). Macro Cultural Psychology: A Political Philosophy of Mind. Oxford University Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0199706297. Culture produces the mind; brain circuitry does not. The mind-body problem of how the physical body/brain produces mental, subjective qualia, is the wrong way to frame the origin of consciousness.
  6. ^ McGann, Marek; De Jaegher, Hanne; Di Paolo, Ezequiel (June 2013). "Enaction and psychology". Review of General Psychology. 17 (2): 203–209. doi:10.1037/a0032935.
  7. ^ John Stewart; Oliver Gapenne; Ezequiel A DiPaolo (2014). "Introduction". In John Stewart; Oliver Gapenne; Ezequiel A DiPaolo (eds.). Enaction (Paperback ed.). MIT Press. p. vii. ISBN 978-0-262-52601-2.
  8. ^ Japyassú, Hilton F; Laland, Kevin N (2017). "Extended spider cognition". Animal Cognition. 20 (3): 375–395. doi:10.1007/s10071-017-1069-7. PMC 5394149. PMID 28176133.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article "Extended cognition", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License but not under the GFDL.