Embodiment and Social Cognition

Paula M. Niedenthal, Jiska Eelen and Marcus Maringer

in The Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780195342161
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Embodiment and Social Cognition

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Social Psychology



This chapter briefly reviews models of the conceptual system on which most research in social cognition research was based until very recently. It then outlines the principles of another account, which is the theory of embodied or grounded cognition. Relevant research findings are presented to demonstrate how several dimensions of experience, such as spatial location and temperature, can represent abstract concepts, and can be extended to account for abstract social concepts. The chapter then considers how social cognition is embedded in the social environment. One such support is suggested by the situatedness of concepts: Just like concepts of basic objects, social concepts are constructed online for use in particular situations. In addition, social cognitive processes are facilitated by off-loading onto the social environment. Consistent with the goals of the present volume, the chapter also points to the neural bases of these processes. It concludes with an example of a model that seeks to account for the interpretation of one of the most important social signals, the human smile.

Keywords: embodied cognition; embedded cognition; social cognition; conceptual system; scaffolding; associative networks; simulation; convergence zones; mirror neurons; amygdala; eye contact; Duchenne smiles; facial expression; mimicry

Article.  11675 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Social Psychology

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