Group-Research – Social/Ecological Cognition.
I hold somatic movement research sessions with small groups. Then I interview participants individually, about their sensation-based experience during interaction with another. I look at the same moment of improvisation from two different sensation perspectives. Open Source Research Interviews can be found HERE.
How are Cognitive Science, Somatic Movement + Sensation-Based Interviews Related?!
About Cognitive Science – Cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and the senses. Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary study of mind and cognition (including neuroscience, philosophy, computer science, psychology, among other academic disciplines) aimed at understanding more about cognition and mental functions.
“Cognition is something that you bring forth by … doing it actively … affect or emotion is at the very foundation of what we do … reasoning is almost like the icing on the cake. Reason is what occurs at the very last stage of the moment-to-moment experience emergence … the early stages are rooted in the sensory motor surfaces … you can [feel] the emergence … as it happens. It starts out from this soup, the entire organism in situation.” – Francisco Varela
The enactive approach – embodied cognition – 4E cognition – these are neames used to speak about various theories within cognitive science. Some core ideas include: cognition is an active, on-going process; cognition is not just something that happens in the brain, rather it is a process involving the whole body in active engagement with the world; cognition is not just something that happens within an individual, rather cognition is always bound to social, cultural and physical contexts; cognition is a process which extends beyond a body via the use of tools (notebooks, computers) and via concepts/language; cognition is a relational, embedded process. That is, the ongoing process of cognition does not just happen within one’s body because one is never in isolation from others, from the environment. Rather, it is through interaction of an organism with-in their environment that knowledge, meaning and understanding arise.
Where 4E cognition seeks to widen the range of processes considered relevant for understanding and knowing, somatic practices could be seen as having long understood and already busy working to improve the functioning and effectivity of the ongoing chit-chat/feedback loop happening between the various levels of organization in ourselves (our entire body-mind.)
They could be seen as sister efforts: 4E cognition intuits that the body/environment/etc is very important in knowing/understanding, and is out and about to test and show this in controlled experiments or field studies. Somatic practice seeks to tap into the ability of the body and our awareness of its ongoing activity to facilitate more effective or wholesome regulation and integration.
What is somatics?!
The term somatics was coined in 1979. It refers to a way of being-doing, any activity. It is exploring what being alive feels like. What are the sensations you notice as you sit here, have a thought, experience an emotion, smell this room… Much like sitting meditation comes in many varieties, the exact exercise or mode of exploring what it feels like is limitless in possible variations (such as narrow or broad focus, interosception or proprioception, etc.) Many activities, such as meditation, yoga or chi gong, are much older than the term somatics, yet fall under the umbrella of the term’s meaning. More on somatics. –Annika Lübbert + erinbell
About Sensation-Based Interviews
Through a dedicated practicing of noticing what it feels like to be alive, practitioners can FEEL a lot of the on-going process occurring in-with-and-around themselves. That is, more nuances of experience come into conscious awareness through dedicated practice.
This interview style is able to support both expert and non-expert practitioners alike – to find detailed, nuanced descriptions of sensations (which are often only possible to describe after many years of practice.)
This interview style deals with how it feels to be in interaction – rather than dealing with meaning-narrative or habitual thinking/analysis.
Interviewees regularly report gaining insight into their whole lives simply by exploring one brief moment in depth.
I find this interview style fascinating and important-feeling because it seems to reveal the “moment-to-moment emergence…as it happens” (Varela); it highlights the sensory motor system (and the entire body) in ACTION, continuously; it highlights the idea that cognition/sense making/thinking is a relational process – and not just a feedback loop within one’s own body – but it even highlights the idea that each of us are in a feedback loop, in relation to our entire environment. It is a narrative of the soup of experience. “It starts out from this soup, the entire organism in situation” – Varela
FUTURE RESEARCH + INFLUENCES
Along with neurophenomenology, what I hope to see flourish within cognitive science are such focuses as:
Cognitive Sentiopectology – Quantitative investigation of biological processes related to cognition, with a specific focus on the pectus tissue, horizontally combined with qualitative accounts of the structure of experience (how aspects of experience are sensed-felt), in the aim to study knowledge and understanding.
Cognitive Sentiosomatology or Cognitive Sentioecology – Quantitative investigation of biological processes related to cognition, including the study of material substances, as in physics, chemistry, biology, and botany, horizontally combined with qualitative accounts of the structure of experience (how aspects of experience are sensed-felt), in the aim to study knowledge and understanding.
In this, sentiopectology is to cognitive neuroscience as sentiosomatology/sentioecology is to cognitive science. While cardiophenomenology is actually close to sentiopectology, it is distinguished in that 1. it does not limit pectal focus to cardio dynamics, and 2. it does not imply that the philosophical modality of phenomenology is used as the means of qualitative investigation of that which can be sense/felt.
My work is based on Neurophenomenology/Varela – Three Gestures ; On Becoming Aware; Elicitation; Micro-Phenomenology; Gendlin’s Focusing; and my own experience as a practitioner working with implicit knowledge forms. My primary bibliography can be found here.
*Please feel welcome to use any of this research for personal learning! If you share with others, include a reference of me – this helps keep my work sustainable. To support this work being in the world you can always Paypal economic support to eenaction AT gmail.com. Be ethical, considerate, if you plan to use my work to teach, earn money, etc. Thanks!