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230 Barbara Tversky: Mind in Motion

Our minds are shaped by the physical movements we make, and our thoughts and perceptions are influenced by our surroundings.

Barbara Tversky: Mind in Motion


In Mind in Motion, cognitive psychologist Barbara Tversky presents a compelling argument for the central role of physical movement in shaping our thoughts and perceptions. Drawing on research from cognitive psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology, Tversky explores how our brains make sense of the world around us, and how our bodies and environments influence the way we think, feel, and act. She argues that physical movement and spatial thinking are essential components of cognition, and that our interactions with objects, people, and spaces are fundamental to our understanding of the world. Through a range of fascinating case studies and personal anecdotes, Tversky offers a new perspective on the nature of human thought and a fresh approach to understanding the complex relationship between mind, body, and environment.


Title: Mind in Motion: How Action Shapes Thought

Author: Barbara Tversky

Publishing Year: 2019

Publisher: Basic Books

Length in Hours: 11 hours and 17 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Our cognitive processes are deeply influenced by the physical movements we make, and by the spaces and objects we interact with in our daily lives.
  2. Spatial thinking and mental imagery play a crucial role in many aspects of human cognition, from memory and perception to language and problem-solving.
  3. Our understanding of the world is shaped by our experiences of moving through and interacting with physical spaces, and by our ability to perceive and interpret spatial relationships.
  4. The connections between mind, body, and environment are complex and multifaceted, and require an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates insights from psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology.
  5. A better understanding of the relationship between movement, perception, and cognition can have important practical applications in fields ranging from education and design to medicine and robotics.
Barbara Tversky: Mind in Motion

5 funny quotes

  1. "Why do we talk about getting ideas? Maybe we should be talking about catching them, like fish or butterflies."
  2. "Why do we say that someone is 'lost in thought'? Maybe they're just exploring new mental landscapes, like a hiker in the woods."
  3. "Why do we call someone 'brainy'? Maybe we should be calling them 'bodily', since the body and the brain are inextricably linked."
  4. "The mind is like a muscle - it gets stronger with use, but can also get sore and tired."
  5. "When we're stuck on a problem, sometimes the best thing we can do is take a walk and let our bodies and minds wander."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "Our bodies and our environments are not just passive recipients of our cognitive processes, but active and dynamic participants in the process of sense-making."
  2. "The physical movements we make and the spaces we inhabit are not just incidental to our cognitive processes, but integral to them."
  3. "The mind is not just in the head, but distributed across the body and the environment."
  4. "Our understanding of the world is not just a matter of perception, but of action and interaction."
  5. "To truly understand the nature of human thought, we need to look beyond the brain and consider the role of the body and the environment in shaping our mental processes."

5 dilemmas

  1. The tension between the desire for control and predictability in design and the need for flexibility and adaptability in response to changing environments and user needs.
  2. The challenge of designing technology that enhances rather than replaces human cognition and creativity, and that supports embodied and social interaction rather than isolating individuals.
  3. The need to balance the benefits of specialization and expertise with the value of interdisciplinary collaboration and holistic thinking.
  4. The challenge of designing spaces and environments that are accessible and inclusive for people with diverse physical and cognitive abilities, and that support their full participation in society.
  5. The ethical dilemmas raised by the use of embodied technologies in healthcare, education, and other domains, and the need to ensure that these technologies are used in ways that respect individual autonomy, dignity, and privacy.

5 examples

  1. The work of architect and designer Neri Oxman, who uses principles of biology and ecology to create innovative and sustainable designs inspired by the natural world.
  2. The research of psychologist Elizabeth Spelke, who has studied the development of spatial reasoning in infants and young children, and the role of culture and experience in shaping this ability.
  3. The work of psychologist and philosopher George Lakoff, who has explored the connections between language, metaphor, and embodied cognition, and how our physical experiences shape our understanding of abstract concepts.
  4. The development of virtual and augmented reality technologies, which are creating new opportunities for embodied and immersive experiences that can enhance learning, therapy, and entertainment.
  5. The success of the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter schools, which prioritize hands-on, experiential learning and provide opportunities for students to develop their physical and cognitive skills in a supportive and challenging environment.

Referenced books

  1. "The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience" by Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch
  2. "The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma" by Bessel van der Kolk
  3. "How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain" by Lisa Feldman Barrett
  4. "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" by Eckhart Tolle
  5. "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales" by Oliver Sacks

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"The mind is not just in the head, but distributed across the body and the environment."

Barbara Tversky: Mind in Motion
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