Embodiment as a Unifying Perspective for Psychology

Arthur Glenberg

Arizona State University


This course will review the literature on embodied cognition to accomplish three goals. The first is to assess the possibility that embodiment provides a unifying perspective for much of psychology. The second goal is to generate ideas for formalization of embodiment theory. The third goal is to advance embodiment theory by devising experiments to discriminate between embodied and non-embodied theories of cognition.



1. Introduction to embodiment as a unifying perspective for psychology

Required readings:

Glenberg, A. M. (2010). Embodiment as a unifying perspective for psychology. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 1, 586-596.

Optional readings:

Mahon, B., & Caramazza, A. (2008). A critical look at the embodied cognition hypothesis and a new proposal for grounding conceptual content. Journal of Physiology-Paris, 102(1-3), 59-70.

Schubert, Y., & Semin, G. (2009) Embodiment as a Unifying Perspective for Psychology, European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 11351141.


2. Embodiment and language

Required readings:

Glenberg, A. M., & Gallese, V. (in press). Action-based Language: A theory of language acquisition, comprehension, and production. Cortex.


3. Mirror neurons and embodiment

Required readings:

Glenberg, A., Lopez-Mobilia, G., McBeath, M., Toma, M., Sato, M.,& and Cattaneo, L. (2010). Knowing beans: Human mirror mechanisms revealed through motor adaptation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 4(206), 1-6.

Optional readings:

Cattaneo, L., Barchiesi, G., Tabarelli, D., Arfeller, C., Sato, M., & Glenberg, A. M. (in press). Ones motor performance predictably modulates the understanding of othersactions through adaptation of premotor visuo-motor neurons. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Sato, M., Brisebois, A., Grabski, K., Basirat, A, Me'nard, L, Glenberg, A. M., & Cattaneo, L. (in press). Articulatory bias in speech categorization: Evidence from use-induced motor plasticity. Cortex.

The Mirror Neuron Forum (in press), Perspectives on Psychological Science.


4. Learning, culture, and embodiment

Required readings:

Markus, H.R., & Kitayama, S. (2010). Cultures and Selves: A Cycle of Mutual Constitution. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(4), 420-430.

Optional readings:

Proffitt, D. R., & Lineknauger, S. A. (in press). Perception viewed as a phenotypic expression.


5. Embodiment applied to education

Required readings:

Glenberg, A. M. (2008). Embodiment for education. In P. Calvo and A. Gomila (Eds.), Handbook of Cognitive Science: An Embodied Approach (pp 355-372). Elsevier: Amsterdam.


For each lecture, students must read the required readings and come to class with a written QRC (question, response, or comment). About half the 90-minute period will consist of a lecture, and the remaining time will be discussion focused on the QRCs. The prototypical QRC is a few sentences or a paragraph long. It may offer alternative interpretations, point out similarities to other articles or literatures, or develop alternative points of view. If you have a simple question (e.g., "What does the author mean by X?"), you should try to frame it with some intellectual content. For example, you might write, "What does the author mean by X? If she means A, then that contradicts C. If she means B, that doesn't contradict C, but neither does it fit in with the standard use of the term X."

Each 45-minute discussion period will focus on a) continued discussion of QRCs and b) formulation and discussion of possible research projects.

Assessment will be based on the quality of the QRCs, contributions to discussion, and a short (five, double-spaced pages) research proposal.


Arthur Glenberg


Art Glenberg received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1974. He was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 33 years except for research leaves at the University of Colorado, The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Bielefeld, Germany, the Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, and the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Parma, Italy. In 2008, he became a professor at Arizona State University. For the past 20 years, his research has focused on language comprehension, and in particular, on developing an action-based, or embodied, account of comprehension processes. Glenberg has served on various editorial boards, he was the Associate Editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,1990-1995, he is author of an introductory statistics text, Learning From Data, and he is co-editor (with M. de Vega and A. Graesser) of Symbols, Embodiment and Meaning.