Thursday, 10 April 2014

Does action scaling predict 'the embodiment of culture'? (No.)

I recently reviewed a paper for Frontiers by Arthur Glenberg and colleagues called 'Sensory motor mechanisms unify psychology: the embodiment of culture' (Soliman, Gibson & Glenberg, 2014). This is part of an ongoing research topic on embodied cognition run by Guy Dove. Once the paper had been published, I took the opportunity to write up my main remaining problem with the paper as a commentary piece (Wilson, 2014) and I'd like to review that here (and also please see my comment at the end about my role here as reviewer). Go download the paper, though, I worked hard to produce a focused critique in the 1000 word limit and I think it went well.

Glenberg and colleagues are trying to develop a broad embodied framework that can encompass both traditional hunting grounds like perception and action but also 'higher order' cognition like social cognition and culture. I admire the effort but to my mind this is grounded cognition, not embodied and so this is not an approach I'd endorse. I like to review papers like this though because it's healthy to have an adversarial reviewer who tries not to be evil (I promise!), and because I also like to keep myself informed about the work I'm rejecting so that I don't start fighting straw men.