Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds


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Removing our human-centered spectacles, Louise Barrett investigates the mind and brain and offers an alternative approach for understanding animal and human cognition. Drawing on examples from animal behavior, comparative psychology, robotics, artificial life, developmental psychology, and cognitive science, Barrett provides remarkable new insights into how animals and humans depend on their bodies and environment--not just their brains--to behave intelligently. Barrett begins with an overview of human cognitive adaptations and how these color our views of other species, brains, and minds.

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Beyond The Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds

Considering when it is worth having a big brain--or indeed having a brain at all--she investigates exactly what brains are good at. Showing that the brain's evolutionary function guides action in the world, she looks at how physical structure contributes to cognitive processes, and she demonstrates how these processes employ materials and resources in specific environments.

Arguing that thinking and behavior constitute a property of the whole organism, not just the brain, Beyond the Brain illustrates how the body, brain, and cognition are tied to the wider world.

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As Andrew Wilson put it in his blog Barrett realy "knows her Gibson". That means that Barrett is taking the stance that cognition is a process that spans the brain, body and environment of an organism, so you need a good theory of perception to systemize this triad, biosemiotic conception of semiosis. In my opinion this is the best approach. She upgrades this theoretical view with the concept of umwelt via ecological psychology. Jun 19, Wing rated it really liked it.


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The author makes a strong case that most if not all animal behaviors can be explained by non-representational and non-computational cognitive processes that inherently and inextricably involve and include the physical body and its environment. In other words, the "mind" is a process or a state but not the brain itself or anything within it. We humans somehow manage to exist, at least at times, in the Heideggerian mode of "vorhanden", and are prone to anthropomorphize animals which are in the " The author makes a strong case that most if not all animal behaviors can be explained by non-representational and non-computational cognitive processes that inherently and inextricably involve and include the physical body and its environment.

We humans somehow manage to exist, at least at times, in the Heideggerian mode of "vorhanden", and are prone to anthropomorphize animals which are in the "zuhanden" mode. Studies on animals, babies and robotics are used extensively to support the author's stance. Concepts like the 'umwelt' and 'distributed cognition' are explained very well. Mar 22, Jessica rated it it was amazing. Barrett's book does a great job of addressing issues in the study of the brain and cognition that many probably have not ever thought about. The book is a great way to expand your horizons and views on how we interact with the world.

The tone is casual and engaging, and is full of helpful anecdotes. She also does a good job of helping to break down more complicated theories and making them more accessible, while not oversimplifying things. An overall great read that really made me think differen Barrett's book does a great job of addressing issues in the study of the brain and cognition that many probably have not ever thought about.

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An overall great read that really made me think differently about the world. May 13, Jordan Wagge rated it it was amazing.


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I have FINALLY found a book on embodiment that is accessible to my students master's in counseling with or without a background in cognition. This is a wonderful piece and doesn't lack in quality what it makes up in clarity.

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Sep 11, Rhys rated it it was amazing. And, amazingly, she makes Gibson almost intelligible.

Beyond the Brain How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds

A joy to read. Apr 14, Buff Davis rated it really liked it. Straightforward and readable introduction to some of the most difficult aspects of embodied cognition - with real examples and detailed explanation. Essential if you want to tackle some of the more cutting edge books that focus almost entirely on the theory alone. May 11, jorge gomez rated it liked it Shelves: Barrett highlights the implications that come with anthropomorphising other species, most notably how we identify intelligence with brain size, and presents a persuasive view of cognition as both embedded and extended.

May 04, Shelby rated it it was amazing. I had the pleasure of taking multiple neuroscience and psychology classes from Louise!

Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds

Absolute GEM she is! Mar 30, Tim marked it as to-read. Alex Woika rated it it was ok Apr 22, Spats McGee rated it it was amazing May 14, Jordan Martin rated it it was amazing Jul 07, Ro Man rated it it was amazing May 23, Jake rated it really liked it Jun 14, Mehmet Soylu rated it it was amazing Oct 06, Kimberly Jongsma rated it it was amazing Sep 13, Eric Brown rated it really liked it Sep 21, Mary rated it really liked it Aug 05, Mooncalf rated it liked it Nov 07, Riccardo rated it it was amazing May 25, Ekaterina rated it really liked it Aug 19, Kamil Nebula rated it it was amazing Mar 13, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds
Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds
Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds
Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds
Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds
Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds
Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds

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