Embodied Cognition With and Without Mental Representations: The Case of Embodied Choices in Sports

Frontiers in Psychology 10:467232 (2019)
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In this conceptual analysis contribution to the special issue on radical embodied cognition, we discuss how embodied cognition can exist with and without representations. We explore this concept through the lens of judgment and decision making in sports (JDMS). Embodied cognition has featured in many investigations of human behavior, but no single approach has emerged. Indeed, the very definitions of the concepts “embodiment” and “cognition” lack consensus, and consequently the degree of “radicalism” is not universally defined, either. In this paper we address JDMS not from a rigid theoretical perspective, but from two embodied cognition approaches: one that assumes there is mediation between the athlete and the environment through mental representation, and another that assumes direct contact between the athlete and the environment and thus no need for mental representation. Importantly, our aim was not to arrive at a theoretical consensus or set up a competition between approaches, but rather to provide a legitimate scientific discussion about how to explain empirical results in JDMS from contrasting perspectives within embodied cognition. For this, we first outline the definitions and constructs of embodied cognition in JDMS. Second, we detail the theory underlying the mental representation and direct contact approaches. Third, we comment on two published research papers on JDMS, one selected by each of us: (1) Correia et al. (2012) and (2) Pizzera (2012). Fourth, following the interpretation of the empirical findings of these papers, we present a discussion on the commonalities and divergences of these two perspectives and the consequences of using one or the other approach in the study of JDMS.



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