In just the last two decades, the embodiment perspective has inspired research and new theoretical ideas across a wide swath of the behavioral and cognitive sciences. Much of the appeal underlying this impact arises from the simple insight upon which the core ideas of embodiment rest: that nervous systems evolved for the adaptive control of action – not for abstract cogitation (chess-playing, in Brooks's memorable 1991 statement of this insight). This idea immediately has several significant implications.
First, minds co-evolved with bodies, especially sensory-motor systems. There are now many examples illustrating the importance of this fact. One is the way organisms use the physical properties of bodies to reduce the need for costly central computation (Thelen & Smith, 1994; Pfeifer & Scheier, 1999). Another is the “active vision” idea that when agents move, far from introducing problematic variation into sensory inputs, they actually create the conditions for discovering cross-modal associations, facilitating understanding of the environment and the adaptive shaping of action (Edelman, 1987; Pfeifer & Scheier, 1999).
Second, the embodiment approach suggests a renewed focus on the whole behaving organism in its natural context as the object of study. Seen from this perspective, either the isolation of specific “slices” such as central information-processing systems, or the study of organisms in environments vastly different from those in which they evolved, seem less than optimal research approaches.