As a matter of philosophy of science, since Karl Popper (1934), falsifiability is a crucial distinctive property of scientific inquiry. So, I wonder to what extent are some hypotheses of cognitive science such as embodied cognition, extended cognition, and enactivism falsifiable, therefore scientific?

Addendum: My concern is that some experiments which are counted as confirmation of embodied cognition such as Bekkering and Neggers (2002) and Balcetis and Dunning (2007) seem to me methodologically improper, because they don't prove or disprove anything like whether the actions of participants have to be attributed to embodiment, rather than brain. And I cannot imagine much experiments that do that.

  • Falsifiability is a crucial distinctive property of scientific inquiry only according to Popper's falsificationism, which is a controversial minority opinion. You may be right that these experiments have methodological problems that undermine their conclusions, however the question is not whether they allow alternative interpretations individually, but whether embodied cognition provides a better framework for them overall than its alternatives. Even according to Popper it is entire theories that are subject to falsification, not individual applications.
    – Conifold
    May 15 '18 at 3:01
  • @Conifold Actually, no, falsification is not only related to theories. It's a criterion for hypotheses, and I cannot see much difference between hypotheses and theories, which are a bunch of hypotheses altogether, to exclude this criterion within individiual applications. In addition, experiments and other sort of test methods have their roots in falsifiable hypotheses. Therefore, regardless of its authors' conclusion, an experiment has to provide falsifiable constraints. By the way, a scientific framework has to be a falsifiable framework. May 15 '18 at 7:37
  • This may be one reason why some folk question the phrase 'cognitive science'.
    – user20253
    May 15 '18 at 11:25
  • Individual hypotheses can not be falsified because testing outcome depends on how the terms in them are related to each other and to practical procedures, only a whole theory can provide that (Michelson-Morley experiment is a good illustration, it is consistent with classical electrodynamics under Lorentz's hypothesis about molecular forces). As for the rest, scientists are not obligated to conduct science according to your preferred criteria, what you say "has to be" is not what happens.
    – Conifold
    May 16 '18 at 23:40
  • @Conifold That's nonsense, frankly.Everything depends on terms' usage and arguing about ungrounded, fallacious semantical claims don't enlighten anyone about nature.Rejecting falsificationism, seems to me erroneous if you don't have anything better, except also rejecting whole the scientific inquiry and regard Freudian psychology, or voodoo and modern physics as though they are at the same level on an abstract scientificality scale, to offer.Plus, this is not the place to discuss these issues.The question takes falsifiability as a built-in property and asks how much falsifiable is the claim. May 18 '18 at 23:15

One of the examples to demonstrate the idea of embodied or extended cognition is catching a fly ball: imagine you are in the outfield of a baseball game, and a ball gets hit in your general direction. How do you catch it?

The sense-plan-act model says: figure out the speed and direction of the ball ('sense'), calculate based on the laws of mechanics where the ball is going to land, and also use mechanics to figure out how you would get to that location ('plan'), and finally execute that very plan ('act').

Notice that on this view, perception and action are 'relegated' to 'mere' input and output: yes, of course you need a perceptual-motor system to be a cognitive agent in the world, but in the end that is really 'peripheral' to the stage where 'you figure it all out'.

Extended cognition is mostly a reaction to this sense-plan-act model; it states that perception and action are integral to one's mental processes. Indeed, rather than 'peripheral', perception and action are part and parcel of one's cognitive processes.

In the case of catching a fly ball: keep your eyes on the ball: if in your field of vision it moves to the left, then move to the left yourself. How far? For how long? Extended cognition says: for as long as the ball no longer moves to the left in your visual field ... and if it starts going to the right, well, then you move to the right as well. Likewise, if the ball in your visual field accelerates up, then it's going to land behind you, so you should back up.... and if it decelerates, then move forward. And just jeep doing this! In other words, no internal models of the world, and no complex calculations: just constant perception-action cycles.

Of course, both models have a perception-processing-action loop, but under extended cognition this loop is to be regarded as much tighter than under sense-plan-act. Indeed, whereas under sense-plan-act all the mental 'cognition' (the planning, the reasoning, the decision-making) is effectively claimed to be all 'in the head' (i.e. during the 'plan' phase) under the view of extended cognition, any explanation of one's mental and cognitive abilities will involve many perceptual-motor loops and, as such, 'cognition' is seen to be embedded in one's body, and extended into the environment.

Indeed, the explanation of how one catches a baseball is really quite different under these two models, and accordingly how the brain is involved in all this. Indeed, as such, the models become testable and falsifiable.... although we'll probably need some more advancements in neuroscience to see which model has the upper hand.

  • Actually, as far as I know, your definition can only be embodied cognition, extended cognition claims much more than that. May 13 '18 at 8:40
  • @user21072 Would you consider using pen and paper to solve a problem an example of extended cognition? If so, I would say the same argument applies. If not, then please add how you define extended cognition to your post.
    – Bram28
    May 13 '18 at 11:44
  • I cannot draw a clear outline of it, and this is why I have posted this so as to learn if these claims are too broad to be scientific as I think or not, and I was planning to learn it by some useful references of users of Stack Exchange, and by personal opinions to some extent, ofcourse. May 15 '18 at 7:40
  • @user21072 You're absolutely right that the claims of extended and embodied cognition are very broad ... just as a view like computationalism: 'cognition is computation'; OK, but what kind of computation? What kind of computational architecture? What algorithms? Etc. So specific predictions you won't find ... but the claim of computationalism is still falsifiable. Again, once we know the whole 'story' of cognition, we'll know if it was indeed computation or something else. And so, I would argue, it is with extended and embodied cognition: they're broad views, yes, and yet they're falsifiable.
    – Bram28
    May 15 '18 at 12:10
  • @user21072 Are you familiar with the works of philosopher of mind Andy Clark? He has written a good number of very accessible books on the ideas of embodied and extended cognition. I can highly recommend those.
    – Bram28
    May 15 '18 at 12:12

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