N°74 - 2021/1

MEMORY AND COGNITION: HOW IS THE MEANING OF THE WORLD CONTRUCTED THROUGH OUR INTERACTIONS WITH THE ENVIRONMENT?

Versace Rémy
Call for communications for a special issue (n° 74) of the journal (Intellectica.org) coordinated by Rémy Versace, Professor at the University of Lyon 2, member of the Laboratory for the Study of Cognitive Mechanisms (EMC).

For a long time, the cognitive sciences have attempted to describe the mechanisms at the basis of behaviour by privileging modularity in its approach, describing cognition as a set of highly specialized systems, involving various levels of internal representations which intervene primarily in a sequential mode. Beyond the modularity, this cognitivist or internalist approach is characterised by putting forward the idea that cognition is composed solely by abstract symbolic representations, independent of the sensori-motor interactions between the organism and its environment.
In this thematic issue, we will adopt a radically opposite position, that of a cognition which is embodied and situated. Cognition is embodied because it is rooted in the interactions held between the body and its environment, and thus emerges from these very interactions. It is situated because it is born in the context of the present, “here and now”. The embodied approach to cognition thus proposed and externalist conception in the sense that it is this embodiment in the world which defines and limits the expression of cognition. Cognition does not result from a succession of treatments involving specialized modules, be they central or peripheral; it is fundamentally interactive and dynamic.
In this framework, memory is defined as a system which is modified in the course of our sensori-motor experiences and liable to re-produce (to simulate or recreate) the cognitive states corresponding to these experiences. Thus the mental states (perceptions, memories, knowledge, feelings…), and more generally cognition, do not derive from the activation of pre-established representations of the world, but emerge in the present moment on the basis of the recreation or simulation, of a sensori-motor nature, of previous sensori-motor states. The meaning of the world is thus not a predetermined external reality, it is constructed via our bodily interactions with the environment.
We see here that if cognition is embodied in the space of interactions, it must also be projected in the temporal dimension, in the sense that past experiences condition the current dynamic, and thus allow a projection in the future.
By giving a central role to the dynamics of body-environment interactions, the Embodied Cognition approach corresponds to a veritable conceptual turn, and this in two ways. On the one hand, it proposes an integrated conception of individual functioning in which it is no longer possible to separate mechanisms which are perceptual, memorial, motor, emotional, social, etc. On the other hand, this conceptual turn requires that we define efficiency of cognitive functioning not according to a criterion of exactness, but to criterion of adaptability. Thus, memory no longer has the function of “recuperating” knowledge; it must rather permit the adaptation of the individual to the present situation, to the activity undertaken, and to a projection in the future.
This thematic issue thus proposes to illustrate this conceptual turn, in a pluri-disciplinary perspective (psychology, neuroscience, digital computation, arts…), starting from: a) a historical reflection on the conditions which allowed for its development; b) theoretical presentations of the various facets of the embodiment of cognition; c) a presentation of more specific research, bearing on populations which are healthy or pathological, young or old.
The articles can be written in French or English. They should not be technical, nor to specialized, so that they can be read by a relatively wide audience having some acquaintance with the domain. The articles are thus somewhat epistemological in nature, and attempt to give an account of the major lines of a theme. You can consult the on-line archives of Intellectica to see the sort of article that the journal has published over the years (http://intellectica.org/fr/numeros).
Submission: Please send you manuscript (or your questions) to : soumission@intellectica.org

Instructions for authors : http://intellectica.org/fr/auteurs

Deadline : 15 September 2020