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Journal Article

Towards strong inference in research on embodiment – Possibilities and limitations of causal paradigms


Ostarek,  Markus
Neurobiology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Ostarek, M., & Bottini, R. (2021). Towards strong inference in research on embodiment – Possibilities and limitations of causal paradigms. Journal of Cognition, 4(1): 5. doi:10.5334/joc.139.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-A59C-F
A central question in the cognitive sciences is which role embodiment plays for high-
level cognitive functions, such as conceptual processing. here, we propose that one
reason why progress regarding this question has been slow is a lacking focus on what
platt (1964) called “strong inference”. strong inference is possible when results from an
experimental paradigm are not merely consistent with a hypothesis, but they provide
decisive evidence for one particular hypothesis compared to competing hypotheses. We
discuss how causal paradigms, which test the functional relevance of sensory-motor
processes for high-level cognitive functions, can move the field forward. in particular,
we explore how congenital sensory-motor disorders, acquired sensory-motor deficits,
and interference paradigms with healthy participants can be utilized as an opportunity
to better understand the role of sensory experience in conceptual processing. Whereas
all three approaches can bring about valuable insights, we highlight that the study of
congenitally and acquired sensorimotor disorders is particularly effective in the case
of conceptual domains with strong unimodal basis (e.g., colors), whereas interference
paradigms with healthy participants have a broader application, avoid many of the
practical and interpretational limitations of patient studies, and allow a systematic
and step-wise progressive inference approach to causal mechanisms.