How Abstract (Non-embodied) Linguistic Representations Augment Cognitive Control

Autor(en): Kompa, Nikola A.
Mueller, Jutta L.
Stichwörter: abstract representations; ACTION WORDS; BRAIN MECHANISMS; CHILDRENS PERFORMANCE; cognitive control; embodiment; EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS; HIERARCHICAL ORGANIZATION; INNER SPEECH; labels; LANGUAGE; OBJECT; PREFRONTAL CORTEX; Psychology; Psychology, Multidisciplinary; SYMBOLIC REPRESENTATION
Erscheinungsdatum: 2020
Herausgeber: FRONTIERS MEDIA SA
Journal: FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY
Volumen: 11
Zusammenfassung: 
Recent scholarship emphasizes the scaffolding role of language for cognition. Language, it is claimed, is a cognition-enhancing niche (Clark, 2006), a programming tool for cognition (Lupyan and Bergen, 2016), even neuroenhancement (Dove, 2019) and augments cognitive functions such as memory, categorization, cognitive control, and meta-cognitive abilities (''thinking about thinking''). Yet, the notion that language enhances or augments cognition, and in particular, cognitive control does not easily fit in with embodied approaches to language processing, or so we will argue. Accounts aiming to explain how language enhances various cognitive functions often employ a notion of abstract representation. Yet, embodied approaches to language processing have it that language processing crucially, according to some accounts even exclusively, involves embodied, modality-specific, i.e., non-abstract representations. In coming to understand a particular phrase or sentence, a prior experience has to be simulated or reenacted. The representation thus activated is embodied (modality-specific) as sensorimotor regions of the brain are thereby recruited. In this paper, we will first discuss the notion of representation, clarify what it takes for a representation to be embodied or abstract, and distinguish between conceptual and (other) linguistic representations. We will then put forward a characterization of cognitive control and examine its representational infrastructure. The remainder of the paper will be devoted to arguing that language augments cognitive control. To that end, we will draw on two lines of research, which investigate how language augments cognitive control: (i) research on the availability of linguistic labels and (ii) research on the active usage of a linguistic code, specifically, in inner speech. Eventually, we will argue that the cognition-enhancing capacity of language can be explained once we assume that it provides us with (a) abstract, non-embodied representations and with (b) abstract, sparse linguistic representations that may serve as easy-to-manipulate placeholders for fully embodied or otherwise more detailed representations.
ISSN: 16641078
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01597

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