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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. (in press). Towards strong inference in research on embodiment – Possibilities and limitations of causal paradigms. Journal of Cognition.

Cite as: http://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.