‘4E’ (embodied, embedded, enactive, extended…) cognition

‘First-generation’ cognitive science, which can be caricatured as understanding cognition as the computational manipulation of abstract symbolic representations, occurring solely in the brain, has given way to the ‘second generation’, in which mental representation has become a fraught concept, and research has focused increasingly on the way cognition is constituted by the whole body in interaction with its environment. This brings with it a greater attention to experience, which has made cognitive science more open to interdisciplinary connections. The number and identity of the Es remains in flux; others include emotional, ecologically shaped, and emergent, as well as some that don’t begin with e, like situated (more or less the same as embedded), distributed (similar to extended), and sensorimotor (similar to enactive). But 4E has become one of the common catchwords for this broad collection of research programmes.

Scientific discussions:

O’Regan, K., and Noë, A. (2001). A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24(5), 939-973. http://endmyopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/sensorimotor-account-vision.pdf (full text)

A radical break with the long-held view that mental or neural representation accounts for visual experience, proposing instead that seeing is a particular way of exploring the environment, with implications for how we understand perceptual experience in both vision and visual imagery as embodied and enacted. Includes numerous peer commentaries and the authors’ responses.

Shapiro, L. (2014). The Routledge handbook of embodied cognition. New York: Routledge. https://books.google.co.uk/books?isbn=131768866X (full preview of introduction)

A wide-ranging introduction to all the key concepts, contexts, and implications – from the ten commandments of ecological psychology, to dynamical systems versus modularity in neuroscience, and autonomy of organisms from environments in enactivist psychology. The introduction (pp. 1-6) provides a helpful summary.
Wilson, M. (2002). Six views of embodied cognition. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 9(4), 625-636. http://l3d.cs.colorado.edu/~ctg/classes/cogsci12/rdg/Wilson_Embodied_Cog.pdf (full text)

A clear outline of different strengths of claim that can be made about how exactly cognition is embodied.
Wallis, C., and Wright, W. (2009). Enactivism’s vision: Neurocognitive basis or neurocognitively baseless? In J. Bickle (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of philosophy and neuroscience (pp. 251-308). Oxford: Oxford University Press. http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195304787.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780195304787-e-12?mediaType=Article (paywall)

A critical take on the tenets of enactivism, suggesting that its revolutionising claims are as yet unfounded, and that it faces serious empirical and conceptual hurdles and has also been ignoring some highly relevant areas of neuroscience.

Cognitive humanities discussions:
Bernini, M. (2014). Supersizing narrative theory: On intention, material agency, and extended mind-workers. Style, 48(3), 349-366. http://www.academia.edu/download/37567290/Bernini__Supersizing_Narrative_Theory.pdf (full text)
Suggests that cognitive approaches have the advantage of allowing us to talk again about intention, and about communication between author and reader. The paper draws on the theory of extended mind (in which the mind and the world beyond the body are linked in a coupled system) to address the problem of authorial intention in narrative world-making, proposing a distributed account of agency during the writing process. The author’s mind can be understood as working in material interaction with language as well as the physical props of writing. Conceiving of writing as thought in action opens up the potential for exploring the effects of writing on thought, including as mediated by mental imagery, and for distinguishing between agency and ownership. Intentions may be better thought of as emerging in writing rather than being recovered from a text, and the gap between author and reader should be complemented by the notion of their interpretive proximity.
Cave, T. (2015). Literary affordances. In T. Cave, Thinking with literature: Towards a cognitive criticism (pp. 46-62). Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://books.google.co.uk/books?isbn=0191066362 (partial preview)

Adapts J.J. Gibson’s definition of affordance to encompass the object doing the affording as well as what it affords, and using the redefined term to explore literary affordances of kinesic responses (with examples from Franzen and Yeats). The discussion takes in the creation of ‘adaptive ecologies’ (by imagining potential affordances and then improvising the devices to supply them); the interrelation of variance and invariance in the structures of affordances; how the inherent underspecification of affordances cuts across the subjective-objective divide; and how all this illuminates literary genres and conventions as part of the cultural evolution of extended mind. Other chapters consider a wide range of ideas including metaphor and communicative relevance, the imagination and counterfactuals, mind-reading and simulation, and literary ethics and the purpose of literature, all informed by and informing literary close readings.

Herman, D. (2011). Re-minding modernism. In D. Herman (Ed.), The emergence of mind: Representa¬tions of consciousness in narrative discourse in English (pp. 243-272). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ITH0UM9bPhIC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false (partial preview)

Argues that Modernist innovations which can be thought of in terms of a shift of focus from fictional worlds to fictional-worlds-as-experienced need to be distinguished from the often-invoked ‘turn inwards’ or a probing of psychological depths, because they in fact illustrate an increased embedding of minds in contexts for action and interaction. Instead of grouping representations of consciousness on a continuum from the mind ‘inside’ to the world ‘outside’, we might posit a spectrum of tighter to looser coupling between an agent and its environment. Enactivist principles and Uexküll’s notion of ‘Umwelt’ guide the analysis of passages from Joyce and Woolf.

Kukkonen, K. (2014). Presence and prediction: The embodied reader’s cascades of cognition. Style, 48(3), 367-384. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/style.48.3.367 (paywall)

Uses Iser’s ‘implied reader’ as a shorthand for models of reader response that sideline embodiment – a shorthand which is contrasted with the ‘embodied reader’. What might the two types of reader learn from the other? Drawing on an excerpt from an 18th-century novel by Tobias Smollett, the paper first discusses the kinesic effects of an embodied description of emotion, in terms of enactive or sensorimotor perception, mirror neurons, and motor resonance. It goes on to develop a model of the action-orientated predictive processing that acts at the levels of reader, storyworld, and character through interactions between embodied experience, error prediction, and probabilistic causal structures. Reading can be thought of as a process of learning and discovery – about the fictional world and about oneself.

Troscianko, E. T. (2014). Reading Kafka enactively. Paragraph, 37(1), 37-51. https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:165ac086-77e3-4505-a776-a8ddcd41ce1e (full text)

Analyses the start of Kafka’s The Trial to show how an understanding of cognition as enactive can open up new ways of understanding fiction-reading: in terms of enactive perception (including vision and imagination), in terms of enactive language (with a focus on basic-level categorisation and readers’ motor responses), and in terms of enactive emotion (drawing on appraisal theory). The multiple ways in which this passage is ‘cognitively realistic’ (corresponding to the realities of how the mind works) provide the basis for hypotheses as to its effects on readers’ responses.

Tribble, E. B. (2005). Distributing cognition in the globe. Shakespeare Quarterly, 56(2), 135-155. http://comphacker.org/pdfs/631/tribbleDistributedShakespeare05.pdf (full text)

Employs the principles of distributed cognition to help explain the cognitive feats achieved by Shakespeare’s actors, embracing the interactions between individual actors’ parts, the overall plot, the physical environment, and the protocols of the theatrical company. The article focuses in particular on how these features create frameworks for memory, as part of how individual performances are constrained by the broader system in which they occur.

Sutton, J., and Tribble, E. (2011). Cognitive ecology as a framework for Shakespearean studies. Shakespeare Studies, 39, 94-103. http://philpapers.org/archive/SUTCEA.pdf (full text)

Cognitive ecologies – the multidimensional contexts in which we think, act, and generally exist – are used as a framework for integrating various approaches to cultural cognition. The paper draws on the principles of distributed cognition to show the relevance of the cognitive ecology to thinking about early-modern theatrical history (with a focus on attention, in actors and audiences) and the history of ‘things’ (with reference to the notion of ‘affordances’ and their temporal/historical implications).