Embodied Situated Cognition /On-line and off-line cognition

It is generally agreed within cognitive neuroscience and psychology that that there are two fundamentally different modes of cognition; on-line and off-line (see, inter alia, Corr, 2006). It is important to grasp the difference, because several of the criticisms of embodied situated cognition only apply to off-line cognition. On-line cognition is concerned with "immediate input" from our local environment (Iverson & Thelan, 2000: 37), and deals with "here-and-now" tasks (Bassili, 1989: xiv) that require fast moment-by-moment processing. We switch to slower, off-line cognition to make more careful considerations, like when we make a mental check on something odd or plan future behaviour (Corr, 2006: 468). Everyday activity and conversations use predominantly on-line cognition, as does reading, but when the usual flow is interrupted we switch to off-line processing. To make this clearer, read:

The old man the boats.

You will probably use on-line cognition as you start to read that sentence (taken from Meyer and Rice, 1992: 199), but then, as that approach fails, re-read it off-line to interpret the meaning correctly. On-line cognition is always situated in the sense that "all the elements of the problem are physically there in a given context and the organism manipulates them to generate an effective response" (Day, 2004: 110), while off-line cognition is only sometimes situated, as in the reading example just given. Immediate location is irrelevant for some off-line cognition, as for example, when we imagine a 'what-if' scenario to plan some hypothetical activity.


home | definitions | e-list  | bibliography