Embodied Cognition


Embodied Embedded Cognition
Motor Cognition
(not to be confused with Embodied Learning)


The bio-psycho-socio-cultural roots of meaning

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … scope of possible actions and interpretations
  • Knowing is … appropriate functioning
  • Learner is … a bodied agent (cultural situated)
  • Learning is … selecting, blending, and refining possibilities
  • Teaching is … designing experiences (orienting, juxtaposing)




Embodied Cognition sits across Embodiment Discourses and Embeddedness Discourses in the assertion that humans are doubly embodied. That is, human cognition simultaneously depends on having a biological body and being part of a socio-cultural corpus. These two nested bodies are intimately intertwined: one’s physical body defines possible movements and ranges of perception; the grander context in which one is embedded defines appropriate actions and the scopes of interpretive possibilities. In this frame, then, one’s learning starts with ranges of bodily motions and perceptions. One’s context selects useful/appropriate actions and noticings, while offering means to extend and blend them into higher-order concepts (e.g., through strategies such as Conceptual Metaphor Theory and Conceptual Blending Theory).


For the most part, criticisms of Embodied Cognition are rooted in diverse interpretations of the words “body” and “embodied,” both of which are encountered across the entire spectrum of theories of learning. Unless those words are understood in terms of nested, complex systems, Embodied Cognition is likely to be misunderstood. Concisely, criticisms of Embodied Cognition typically come from commentators who don’t understand the theory.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Francisco Varela; Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Status as a Theory of Learning

Embodied Cognition is a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Embodied Cognition is not a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Embodied Cognition is profoundly attentive to its grounding assumptions and supported by robust and diversified bodies of evidence.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Embodied Cognition” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.

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