Embodied Approaches to Mind and Language

University of California, Merced
COGS 180: Embodied Approaches to Mind and Language
Fall 2020

Lecturer: Adam M. Croom, Ph.D.
Teaching Assistant: Ayme Tomson, Ph.D. student
Teaching Assistant: Ketika Garg, Ph.D. student

My Office Hours: By appointment on Zoom

Lectures: Mondays and Wednesdays, 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm, on Zoom

Course Description: What role does the body play in language comprehension, language production, and other cognitive operations? And more generally, what is the relationship between language, the body, and mind? Questions such as these have fascinated philosophers for thousands of years and continue to excite cognitive scientists and other scholars to this day. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the landscape of contemporary research on mind and language, especially from an embodied perspective. To this end, we will focus primarily on recent work in cognitive science on language and embodied cognition, while also situating this work within the context of other important historical and contemporary views, such as phenomenology, symbolic systems, connectionism, and dynamical systems theory. Our aim will be to learn about these important developments in the cognitive sciences while paying particular attention to the crucial role that language plays. Throughout this course we will study a range of interesting topics including the relationship between language and consciousness, recursion and compositional structure in language and thought, the role of sensorimotor systems in language comprehension and production, the dynamics of first and second language acquisition, gesture, pragmatic phenomena such as slurs and stereotypes, bayesian statistics as a research method, and possible ways to resolve tensions between symbolic vs. dynamic and embodied vs. distributional accounts of language and cognition. By completing this course students will gain insight into one of the hottest areas of research in cognitive science today and will develop a better understanding of the important roles that language and the body play in our mental life.

Outcomes: Upon completion of this course students will have upgraded their mental programs by reading important articles and watching new lectures about embodied approaches to language and mind. Students will have also gained experience doing research on two topics of their choice and writing two critical essays about language and mind. Students will complete short activities every class utilizing a variety of active learning techniques, and frequent opportunities will be provided to work with partners and in small groups.

Required Reading: The readings will be available for you on CatCourses.

Assignment Submissions: Submit your assignments by uploading them directly onto CatCourses.

Grading Procedures: Your grade for this course will be based on your performance on regular activities (50%) and two 20 minute teach backs (25% each). Your first teach back will focus on a topic covered in the first half of the course (consciousness, symbolic systems, or connectionist models) and your second teach back will cover a topic covered in the second half of the course (embodied cognition, dynamical/complex systems, or probabilistic inference). A grading rubric will be provided along with your assignment.

Academic Integrity: Each student must abide by the Academic Honesty Policy at the University of California, Merced. You must do all of your own work on homework assignments, projects, and exams, and copying is never allowed. Violations of academic integrity will result in disciplinary action.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: The University of California is committed to ensuring equal opportunities and inclusion for students with disabilities based on the principles of independent living, accessible universal design, and diversity. The University of California requests for academic accommodations to be made during the first three weeks of the semester, except for unusual circumstances, and students are encouraged to register with the Disability Services Center to verify their eligibility for appropriate accommodations. I am available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations that may be required for students with disabilities, so if you have any questions about this please feel free to ask.

Additional Remarks: This syllabus is tentative and subject to change so stay tuned for updates. To create an optimal learning environment computers can only be used for class exercises and notes (no gaming or social media, etc.) and no audio or video recordings are allowed in class. If you have any questions or want to talk more about the course, majoring in cognitive science, or your future career, I encourage you to visit me during office hours for a chat. I value your contributions in class and look forward to seeing you develop this semester.

Schedule Overview

  • Lecture 1: Wednesday, August 26, 2020. Introduction to Embodied Approaches to Mind and Language.
  • Lecture 2: Monday, August 31, 2020. Consciousness.
  • Lecture 3: Wednesday, September 2, 2020. Language and Consciousness.
  • Labor Day Holiday: Monday, September 7, 2020. No Lecture.
  • Lecture 4: Wednesday, September 9, 2020. Rules and Representations.
  • Lecture 5: Monday, September 14, 2020. Computational Modeling of the Mind.
  • Lecture 6: Wednesday, September 16, 2020. Rethinking the Language of Thought.
  • Lecture 7: Monday, September 21, 2020. Letting Structure Emerge.
  • Lecture 8: Wednesday, September 23, 2020. Connectionist Perspectives on Language.
  • Lecture 9: Monday, September 28, 2020. Radical Connectionism.
  • Lecture 10: Wednesday, September 30, 2020. Wittgenstein and Connectionism.
  • Lecture 11: Monday, October 5, 2020. Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Embodiment.
  • Lecture 12: Wednesday, October 7, 2020. The Brain Has a Body.
  • Lecture 13: Monday, October 12, 2020. The Embodied Mind.
  • Lecture 14: Wednesday, October 14, 2020. Embodied Cognition.
  • Lecture 15: Monday, October 19, 2020. Situated Cognition.
  • Lecture 16: Wednesday, October 21, 2020. Grounded Cognition.
  • Lecture 17: Monday, October 26, 2020. Thinking in Words.
  • Lecture 18: Wednesday, October 28, 2020. Developing Embodied Cognition.
  • Lecture 19: Monday, November 2, 2020. Children Create Language.
  • Lecture 20: Wednesday, November 4, 2020. Body Leans and the Marking of Contrast in ASL.
  • Lecture 21: Monday, November 9 2020. Dynamical Approaches to Cognitive Science.
  • Veterans Day: Wednesday, November 11, 2020. No Lecture.
  • Lecture 22: Monday, November 16, 2020. Reconciling Symbolic and Dynamic Aspects of Language.
  • Lecture 23: Wednesday, November 19, 2020. How to Grow a Mind.
  • Lecture 24: Monday, November 23, 2020. Human Level Concept Learning.
  • Non-Instructional Day: Wednesday, November 25, 2020. No Lecture.
  • Lecture 25: Monday, November 30, 2020. Meaning and the Brain.
  • Lecture 26: Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Politeness.
  • Lecture 27: Monday, December 7, 2020. Expressives.
  • Lecture 28: Wednesday, December 9, 2020. Slurs.
  • First Teach Back: Your first teach back assignment is due by midnight on Sunday, October 18, 2020.
  • Final Teach Back: Your second teach back assignment is due by midnight on Thursday, December 17, 2020.