Ambiguity and Representational Stability: What is the role of embodied experiences?


The influence of embodied experiences on cognition is not yet fully understood. To explore its effects, we analyzed the responses of adults in a high-ambiguity prediction task: Adults had to decide which of two objects would sink faster (or slower) in water. Ambiguity was achieved by pitting object volume and object mass against buoyancy: The winning object was sometimes heavy and big, and sometimes it was light and small. Thus, the task could not be solved with a simplistic rule alone. The crucial manipulation was whether adults haptically explored the objects, either prior to feedback training or afterward. Findings showed a clear disadvantage of hands-on experiences: When allowed to hold the objects, participants were likely to show a simplistic focus on object heaviness. These results call for a more a nuanced understanding of the effect of embodied experiences on the stability of representations.

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