Insightful thinking: cognitive dynamics and material artifacts

Pragmatics and Cognition 17 (3):549-572 (2009)
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We trace how cognition arises beyond the skin. Experimental work on insight problem solving is used to examine how external artifacts can be used to reach the goal of assembling a `cheap necklace'. Instead of asking how insight occurs `in the head', our participants in Experiment 1 can either draw solution attempts or manipulate real objects . Even though performance with real chain links is significantly more successful than on paper, access to objects does not make this insight problem simple: objects themselves do not shape cognition. This challenges extended mind views. While failure often results from the inappropriate application of hill-climbing, material artifacts can trigger solutions. In Experiment 2, we used `open link' conditions of the concretized problem to prompt participants to act . Solutions arrived via insight, serendipity, or trial-and-error. By investigating how objects are used, we show that they do more than supplement neural events. Rather, participants monitor and anticipate the effects of action within an organism-environment system. By analogy, language too draws on experience of monitoring real-time effects as bodily dynamics play out in a normative and cultural world. In engaging with public language, it is likely that verbal patterns function by constraining anticipatory cognitive processes



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References found in this work

Challenges to the hypothesis of extended cognition.Robert D. Rupert - 2004 - Journal of Philosophy 101 (8):389-428.
Cognition in the Wild.Edwin Hutchins - 1998 - Mind 107 (426):486-492.
Material symbols.Andy Clark - 2006 - Philosophical Psychology 19 (3):291-307.

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