The Embodiment of Culture

Authored by: Tamer Soliman , Arthur M. Glenberg

The Routledge Handbook of Embodied Cognition

Print publication date:  May  2014
Online publication date:  April  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415623612
eBook ISBN: 9781315775845
Adobe ISBN: 9781317688662


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What is the nature of culture? Is it a form of human values that floats above individual experience? Or, does culture arise from the mundane interactions of individuals with their physical and social environments? We provide answers to these questions in the following four sections of this chapter. In the first, we describe problems with standard conceptions of culture, including how it is learned and transmitted and how culture interfaces with psychological experience. In the second, we develop an approach based on ideas of embodied cognition: at the level of the individual and the small group (e.g. family), culture is the tuning of sensorimotor systems for situated action. In the third and fourth sections, we sketch the results from two empirical investigations that demonstrate the promise of this approach. One of the investigations documents how culture can influence distance perception by taking into account expected effort of interaction (e.g. Proffitt, 2006) with in-group and out-group members. The second demonstrates how close physical interaction of the sort hypothesized to lead to sensorimotor tuning can literally change the body schema so that dyads become closely attuned to one another; that is, they form an in-group.

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