Any distinction made between mind and body helps reinforce the sense of free will, whether implicit or implied. Let’s face it; the sense, “if I can think it, I can do it” is too tempting to resist. This ‘mind-body’ duality is misleading for it neglects to take biology in account for how we think. That makes the ‘mind-body’ duality tempting because it allows us to see ourselves in a superior light, i.e., we’re not mere animals, we’re sapient animals and thus ‘superior’. The Chinese word Xin may offer a more accurate view of mind and body. Xin (心) translates as: the heart; heart; mind; feeling; intention; centre; core. This blurs the distinction between heart and mind, feeling and thinking, and helps debunk mind-body duality.
Science is how we debunk humanity’s long held myths now. It is relentlessly peeling away the ‘makeup’ with which we love to adorn ourselves. The following research is another small step towards taking the ‘sapiens’ out of ‘homo’, i.e., Homo sapiens (Latin: “wise man”). Making cognition less ‘superior’ than we idealize it to be can only increase self-understanding. It also puts another nail in the coffin of free will, which brings us that much closer to full membership in the animal kingdom. Here are excerpts from a recent Science News report:
Body In Mind (Click on link for the full report)
For the past 30 years, standard theories of cognition have assumed that the brain creates abstract representations of knowledge, such as a word that represents a category of objects. This abstract knowledge gets filed in separate neural circuits, one devoted to understanding and using speech, for example, and another involved in discerning others’ thoughts and feelings. If that’s so, then cognition operates on a higher level apart from more mundane brain systems for perception, action and emotion. Mental life must occur in three discrete steps: Sense, think and then act.
The new approach, often called embodied or grounded cognition, turns standard thinking on its head. It argues that cognition is grounded in interactions among basic brain systems, including those for perception, action, memory, emotion, reward and goal management.
These systems increasingly coordinate their activity as an individual gains experience performing tasks jointly with other people. Complex thinking capacities—in particular, a feel for anticipating what’s about to happen in a situation—form out of these myriad interactions within and between individuals, somewhat like the novel products of chemical reactions.
In short, people often act in order to think and learn, using immediate feedback to adjust their behavior from one moment to the next.
According to this view, bodily states—say, smiling—stimulate related forms of cognition, such as feeling good or remembering a pleasant experience. Researchers emphasize that the ability to think about an observed action or event, such as a friend biting into a peach, stems from neural reenactments of one’s perceptual, motor and emotional states—biting into your own peach.
“It’s really through the body, and the dynamic coupling of neural systems for perception, action and introspection, that cognition emerges,” says developmental psychologist Linda Smith of Indiana University in Bloomington.