Happy New Year to all, with much gratitude toward loved ones. I always feel a sense of relief when we get into January, mostly for the longer days and anticipation of warmer weather.
Some of the most fascinating research is being done in the field of embodied cognition. It is still in the early stages of study and somewhat vague in definition, but nonetheless it represents a leap of understanding in cognitive science. My interpretation of what it means, is that instead of our brains being locked away inside our heads with only our unique perceptions and mental representations to stimulate behavior and solve problems – we actually have cognitive resources that are distributed across our brains, our physical bodies – and our environment.
One of the essential meanings of embodied cognition is that states of the body modify states of the mind. So far, the only real study I have been able to find on clothing and embodied cognition is one involving a white lab coat and the perceptions it creates. That study alone, indicates that what we wear creates a significant impression with regards to the way we feel, as well as to how others perceive us.
With advanced and increasing knowledge about the brain, psychologists and philosophers have delved more and more into the field of embodied cognition and question how words, objects and events are perceived or made meaningful to us. The research so far demonstrates that language comprehension depends on emotion, perception and metaphor. This becomes the primary motivator of our behavior. It is the motivation and resulting coordinated action that links us to other people. The most compelling aspect of the linguistic component, is the extensive use of metaphor. Every conceptual metaphor from a “couch potato” to looking and feeling like a “million bucks” or saying it “fits like a glove” to a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” provide us with examples of metaphors that describe concepts, some of which are highly complex and abstract.
What the increasing awareness and knowledge regarding embodied cognition brings to the fashion industry, is that if our physical bodies share in our cognitive processing, perception and interactions – then the way we dress and care for our physical bodies is far more important than mere vanity or practicality. It is an outward representation of at least some of the elements of cognition. The notion of intellectualizing fashion is not based on whim or fancy, but on a much wider and more holistic framework than has been previously acknowledged.
Just as the medical world began to recognize the need to treat the whole person (body) in the seventies, we now have that holistic element extending to our brain, mind, body, outward appearance, emotions, perceptions – and the environment. This means that if we are able to “pull it together” – it could be what brings us closer to self-actualization and the authentic self – which is the opposite of narcissism and mere vanity.
The food for thought that I leave with you for the New Year – is that all of our potential is wrapped up in embodied cognition – to enigmatically include many facets of existence that are outside and well beyond our concept of self.
Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2015). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.