Skinner, Gibson, and Embodied Robots: Challenging the Orthodoxy of the Impoverished Stimulus

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Informed by recent developments in cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and robotics, scientists have begun to reconsider both the structural and functional properties of phenomena historically conceptualized as cognition. This view, variously referred to as embodied, or distributed, cognition, rejects the conventional status of mind as a disembodied computational device that operates on symbolic representations of the real world. Instead, embodied cognition is viewed as the synthetic outcome of real-time continuous interactions between the organism, both its brain and body, and a complex and dynamic external world. In situating perception, thinking, memory, and decision-making within the active interplay of an intact organism and its world, research and theory in embodied cognition makes contact with earlier conceptualizations of perception and behavior offered by J. J. Gibson and, surprisingly, B. F. Skinner. This article explores this surprising congruence and its implications for psychological science.

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