Ken Cheng | Thinking Outside the Brain: Embodied, Extended, and Enactive Cognition in Animals
The notion that cognition comprises more than computations of a central nervous system operating on representations has gained a foothold in human cognitive science for a few decades now. Various brands of embodied, extended, and enactive cognition, some more conservative and some more liberal, have paraded in philosophy and cognitive science. I call the genus including all such species situated cognition, and go on to depict selected cases in non-human comparative cognition. The octopus displays embodied cognition, with some of the computational work offloaded to the periphery. Web-building spiders showcase extended cognition, in which objects external to the animal—the web in the case of spiders—play a crucial causal role in cognition. A criterion of mutual manipulability, in which causal influence flows both ways between organism and extended object, serves to delimit the scope of extended cognition. Play in dogs features intelligence on-the-run, arising out of action, a key characteristic of enactive cognition. I discuss other cases in which action entwines with central representational cognition to achieve goal-directed behavior. Considering situated cognition in diverse animals leads to myriad research questions that can enrich the study of cognition.