chapter
Introduction
ByMartin H. Fischer, Yann Coello
Pages 8

The very act of communicating postulates a sender and a receiver who exchange mutually agreed upon signals through various communication channels. This prototypical situation contains all the components currently used to study the mechanisms of embodiment – perceiving others’ non-linguistic behaviour activates dedicated brain machinery for understanding intentions; while perceiving their linguistic signals triggers simulation processes, based on previous neural states, as part of the comprehension process (Barsalou, 1999). Over the last 20 years, a wealth of data has provided evidence that semantic representations and conceptual knowledge in language, reasoning or numerical processing are closely linked to sensorimotor processes (Barsalou, 1999; Bergen, 2012; Chatterjee, 2010; Fischer & Zwaan, 2008; Fischer & Shaki, 2014) and related predictive mechanisms (Clark, 2013; Coello & Bartolo, 2012). In line with this evidence, embodied theories of semantic and conceptual processing today propose that access to knowledge requires mental simulations in the brain’s modality-specific systems involved in perceiving and acting in the world (De Vega, Glenberg, & Graesser, 2008; Glenberg & Kaschak, 2002; Zwaan & Radvanksy, 1998). Such an embodied approach to cognition diverges substantially from the classical amodal theories which view concepts as symbolic and abstract entities (e.g. Landauer & Dumais, 1997; Lund & Burgess, 1996). Consequently, apparently abstract concepts such as space, quantity, movement and time have become crucial dimensions of our understanding of any interaction with our physical or social environment. It has been shown that both the comprehension and the cognitive manipulation of these concepts are captured in mental simulations grounded in experience and sensorimotor processes (Zwaan, 1996; Zhang, Jia, & Ren, 2014).