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<xTITLE>We Think With More Than Just Our Minds: Conflict Reaches Clear Down To Our Toes</xTITLE>

We Think With More Than Just Our Minds: Conflict Reaches Clear Down To Our Toes

by Stephanie West Allen
January 2010

From Stephanie West Allen's blog on Neuroscience and conflict resolution.

Stephanie West Allen

A negotiation is so much more than minds and brains interacting with each other. Our bodies are an integral part of any conflict resolution and not just to hold up our heads that house our brains. Whole people are in the room and the conflict goes from head to toe. Our cognition is embodied.

I have posted about embodied cognition before, but it is good to remember often that we are more than what is above our neck. A new article was a good reminder for me today of the whole-body person that we each are. I am passing it along as a reminder for you. From "The Body of Knowledge: Understanding Embodied Cognition" Association for Psychological Science's Observer):

The cold shoulder. A heavy topic. A heroic white knight. We regularly use concrete, sensory-rich metaphors like these to express abstract ideas and complicated emotions. But a growing body of research is suggesting that these metaphors are more than just colorful literary devices — there may be an underlying neural basis that literally embodies these metaphors. Psychological scientists are giving us more insight into embodied cognition — the notion that the brain circuits responsible for abstract thinking are closely tied to those circuits that analyze and process sensory experiences— and its role in how we think and feel about our world.

[Author] APS Fellow and Charter Member Art Glenberg (Arizona State University) says embodiment “provides a counterweight to the prevailing view that cognition is something in the head that is pretty much separate from behavior. ...

(He goes on to say we are animals and that all of our cognition is directed towards survival and reproduction. I don't happen to agree that those are our only goals but that opinion of his does not detract from the article.)

The authors take a look at several research studies on various effects of embodied cognition. The studies are not in the least boring. I invite you to read the article, and bet many of you will find the studies intriguing.


Stephanie West Allen, JD, practiced law in California for several years, held offices in local bar associations, and wrote chapters for California Continuing Education of the Bar. While in CA, Stephanie completed several five-day mediation training programs with the Center for Mediation in Law, as well as a two-year intensive with Center co-founder Gary Friedman. She has been a mediator for over two and one-half decades.

She is the author of Triversity Fantasy — Seven Keys To Unlock Prejudice, Creating Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service: A Workbook and many articles on workplace and professional issues for such publications as Lawyer Hiring and Training Report, Colorado Nurse, The Complete Lawyer, National Law Journal, Of Counsel, Law Practice and Denver Business Journal.

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Additional articles by Stephanie West Allen