Mind, Technology, and Society Talk Series

Speaker: Rolf A. Zwaan, Professor, Department of Psychology, Eramus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Time/Date: 3PM, Nov. 17

Location: KL232

TITLE: Context-Dependent Grounded Cognition


The debate on whether language comprehension involves the manipulation of abstract symbols or is grounded in perception and action has reached an im- passe, with authors from different theoretical persuasions unable to agree on the diagnostic value of empirical findings. To escape this impasse, I propose a pluralist view of cognition that encompasses linguistic and grounded representations. The relative contributions of these symbol types to language comprehension vary as a function of the degree to which language use is embedded in the environment and as a function of task demands. I will discuss a framework for grounded cognition that encompasses context and task demands.


Rolf A. Zwaan is Professor in the Department of Psychology at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He earned his Ph.D. from Utrecht University in 1992, moved through the academic ranks from postdoc to full professor (2002) in the United States and returned to the Netherlands in 2007. His main research interests include language comprehension, embodied cognition, and, as of late, meta-psychology. He has published articles in various major outlets in the field, such as Psychological Bulletin, the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Language, Psychological Science, Cognition, Cognitive Science, and Perspectives on Psychological Science. He has serves as Editor-in-Chief of Acta Psychologic and is on the editorial board of several journals. His work has been/is being funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, The Dutch Foundation for Scientific Research (NWO), and the European Commission. Rolf Zwaan is a columnist for a Dutch psychology magazine, maintains a widely-read blog http://rolfzwaan.blogspot.nl/, and can be found on Twitter at @RolfZwaan.