“How the Body Shapes the Mind” by Gallagher

The central question in Gallagher’s book is how embodiment shapes human cognition. He is combining phenomenology with empirical studies in, e.g., neurology, like what different pathologies, to reveal about how the brain and body work.

  • Body schema is a system of sensory-motor skills that work without awareness or conscious monitoring.
  • Body image: consists of perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs of one’s body.
  • Body schema system enables us to perform complex operations like discussing with a fiend while walking. We only need consciously determine the direction and body schema system handles details without conscious awareness.
  • Body schema works integrated to its environment. Body schema can include external objects thought practice like riding bicycle, using hammer, playing computer game with a specific type of controls
  • Body image can also incorporate extensions like eyeglasses or prosthetic devices.
  • (To me, this seems to imply that playing a game will be incorporated mainly by learning to use controls to body schema. Most likely, this does not change our body image. Thus, I will not become what I am controlling even when the controls of the game are tightly integrated to me, i.e., bicycle or cello are not likely to be part of my body image through practice while wheelchair might).
  • Parts of body schema is intact at birth. This makes possible learning by imitation (few hours old babies have shown to imitate facial expressions).
  • Intermodal connection between different sensory systems is innate (e.g., shapes learned by touch can be discriminated with vision). This connection can deteriorate, like with blind people.
  • Motor behavior of the others is reflected to possibilities of self. Perceived action triggers owns own motor system (but without actual action) and enables one to understand the action of the other. “Body schemas, working systematically with proprioceptive awareness, constitute a proprioceptive self that is always already ‘coupled’ with the other” (p. 81).
  • “The newborn infant does not attend to the outward appearance of the other, but rather attends to the action and expression of the other. Some time later in development the child comes to interpret the other person’s intentions thought their actions.” (pp. 82-83.)
  • A human body in conjunction with environment organizes experience and movement in relation to practical purposes. Environment and body is part of cognition; human cognition is not reducible to the brain (or mind).
  • Perception and making sense of environment is possible for newborn. It does not require experience, but experience have role in development of perceptual capabilities.
  • Gallagher criticize theory theory and simulation theory of theory of mind: Understanding others is not primary conceptual.
  • Gallagher points out: “On this non-simulationist vie, mirror neurons and shared representations are not primarily the mediators of simulation but are the enactment of direct intersubjective perception” (p. 223).
  • (How relevant Gallagher’s critique is to my arguments in Goals, affects, and empathy in games?)

Gallagher, S. (2005). How the body shapes the mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Published by lankoski

Petri Lankoski, D.Arts, is a Associate Professor in Game Studies at the school of Communication, Media and IT at the Södertörn University, Sweden. His research focuses on game design, game characters, role-playing, and playing experience. Petri has been concentrating on single-player video games but researched also (multi-player) pnp and live-action role-playing games. This blog focuses on his research on games and related things.

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