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Thirty years ago, grounded cognition had roots in philosophy, perception, cognitive linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuropsychology. During the next 20 years, grounded cognition continued developing in these areas, and it also took new forms in robotics, cognitive ecology, cognitive neuroscience, and developmental psychology. In the past 10 years, research on grounded cognition has grown rapidly, especially in cognitive neuroscience, social neuroscience, cognitive psychology, social psychology, and developmental psychology. Currently, grounded cognition appears to be achieving increased acceptance throughout cognitive science, shifting from relatively minor status to increasing importance. Nevertheless, researchers wonder whether grounded mechanisms lie at the heart of the cognitive system or are peripheral to classic symbolic mechanisms. Although grounded cognition is currently dominated by demonstration experiments in the absence of well-developed theories, the area is likely to become increasingly theory driven over the next 30 years. Another likely development is the increased incorporation of grounding mechanisms into cognitive architectures and into accounts of classic cognitive phenomena. As this incorporation occurs, much functionality of these architectures and phenomena is likely to remain, along with many original mechanisms. Future theories of grounded cognition are likely to be heavily influenced by both cognitive neuroscience and social neuroscience, and also by developmental science and robotics. Aspects from the three major perspectives in cognitive science—classic symbolic architectures, statistical/dynamical systems, and grounded cognition—will probably be integrated increasingly in future theories, each capturing indispensable aspects of intelligence.
Work in philosophy and psychology has argued for a dissociation between perceptually-based similarity and higher-level rules in conceptual thought. Although such a dissociation may be justified at times, our goal is to illustrate ways in which conceptual processing is grounded in perception, both for perceptual similarity and abstract rules. We discuss the advantages, power and influences of perceptually-based representations. First, many of the properties associated with amodal symbol systems can be achieved with perceptually-based systems as well (e.g. productivity). Second, relatively raw perceptual representations are powerful because they can implicitly represent properties in an analog fashion. Third, perception naturally provides impressions of overall similarity, exactly the type of similarity useful for establishing many common categories. Fourth, perceptual similarity is not static but becomes tuned over time to conceptual demands. Fifth, the original motivation or basis for sophisticated cognition is often less sophisticated perceptual similarity. Sixth, perceptual simulation occurs even in conceptual tasks that have no explicit perceptual demands. Parallels between perceptual and conceptual processes suggest that many mechanisms typically associated with abstract thought are also present in perception, and that perceptual processes provide useful mechanisms that may be co-opted by abstract thought.