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The Pragmatic TurnToward Action-Oriented Views in Cognitive Science$
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Andreas K. Engel, Karl J. Friston, and Danica Kragic

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034326

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034326.001.0001

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The Contribution of Pragmatic Skills to Cognition and Its Development

The Contribution of Pragmatic Skills to Cognition and Its Development

Common Perspectives and Disagreements

(p.19) 2 The Contribution of Pragmatic Skills to Cognition and Its Development
The Pragmatic Turn

Giovanni Pezzulo

The MIT Press

From both an evolutionary and a developmental perspective, sensorimotor skills precede “higher” cognitive abilities. According to traditional cognitive theories, abilities such as thinking, planning, and mindreading are not action-dependent. Action-based theories, however, do not view action and cognition as separate domains; they argue that pragmatic skills (or a “mastery of sensorimotor contingencies”) are integral components of higher cognitive abilities, essential for their development. For example, pragmatic skills might afford (active) perception, (active) learning, and the acquisition of conceptual knowledge as well as “intellectual” skills (e.g., thinking or calculating). Despite accumulating empirical support for action-based theories, it is unclear to which extent pragmatic skills contribute to cognition and its development, with contrasting proposals in the field. This chapter reviews three (not mutually exclusive) perspectives: (a) the coordinated self-organization of behavior and cognition; (b) the role of “cognitive mediators” across sensorimotor and higher cognitive domains; and (c) the action-based construction of abstract and amodal cognitive domains. Common perspectives and disagreements between these views are discussed and open issues, opportunities for theoretical debates, and empirical tests are highlighted, all of which might be contribute to a research agenda for the emerging “pragmatic” view of cognition.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, action, cognition, sensorimotor contingencies, embodiment, self-organization, cognitive mediators

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