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date: 20 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Social functioning requires emotion. We must be able to recognize, interpret, and generate emotions across a variety of social contexts. But how are emotions conceptually represented in the mind? Embodiment (or grounded cognition) theories propose that processing of emotional concepts is partly based in one’s own perceptual, motor, and somatosensory systems. We review evidence for this account across a variety of domains, including facial expression perception, interpretation of emotional language, somatic involvement in affective processing, and “mirroring” of others’ actions. We also contrast embodiment theories with more traditional “amodal” frameworks, which represent emotional information as abstract language-like symbols in cognitive networks. Overall, we argue that a comprehensive account of emotion concepts requires considering their embodiment. Simultaneously, we highlight that embodiment is flexible and dynamic, especially within the social environment. This means that when and how emotion concepts are embodied critically depends on situational cues and current representational needs.

Keywords: emotion, embodiment, affect, processing, concepts, facial expressions, social psychology, cognitive science, language, mirroring

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