Abstract thinking in space and time: Using the environment to learn words

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A substantial body of work has examined the gestures children and adults make when they talk and found them to be a revealing window on the processes of cognitive change. In her paper, Susan Wagner Cook (this volume) reviews this work along with her own recent work examining the gestures children and adults produce when they talk about math. She argues that the combined data point to a new view of our mathematical knowledge as embodied. Here I comment on Cook's arguments, highlighting how this view of math as embodied offers new insights for our understanding of classic developmental themes, in particular, the continuity versus discontinuity dichotomy. In addition, I present a brief summary of recent work on how children use their bodies in another realm typically thought of as abstract-understanding referential intent. I present an embodied account of how children disambiguate speaker intent in novel naming situations and argue that, as in the case of embodied math, an embodied view of cognition can help elucidate developmental mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-581
Number of pages11
JournalCognition, Brain, Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011

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