Wednesday musings, 12/21: embodied cognition

Embodied cognition, or the concept that the state of the body affects the state of the mind, is a buzz phrase in psychology circles. Our cognition (the acquisition of knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and senses) is impacted by our experiences with the physical world. Basically, movement influences learning.*

In the book “Superbetter,” game researcher Jane McGonigal uses embodied cognition as a way to influence resilience. If you are trying to resist a cookie at a holiday party, tighten your muscles for five seconds. The theory is your physical strength will give you mental strength. 

The concept of embodied cognition can be applied to other situations. For instance, if you are studying a difficult topic, would you prefer a cold, stark white, neon lit environment, or a warm room with a big, comfortable chair to sit on and a window to look out over a garden? These two scenarios evoke very different physical responses; research suggests spending a little bit of time in both actually leads to greater retention.** Adaptability, after all, is a sign of expertise. 

If you are struggling with a mental task, perhaps tapping into your physical self in some way will give you the strength you need to get to the next stage of problem solving, learning, or resilience. Or, physically move into a different room and see if the change of scenery gives you a different perspective.