Embodied Cognition and Sport

 

Successful athletic performance requires precision in many respects. A batter stands behind home plate awaiting the arrival of a ball that is less than three inches in diameter and moving close to 100 mph. His goal is to hit it with a ba­­t that is also less than three inches in diameter. This impressive feat requires extraordinary temporal and spatial coordination. The sweet spot of the bat must be at the same place, at the same time, as the ball. A basketball player must keep a ball bouncing as she speeds from one end of the court to another, evading defensive players. She may never break pace as she lifts from the ground, throwing the ball fifteen feet toward a hoop that is eighteen inches in diameter. One task facing a psychologist involves explaining how the body does such things within the sometimes very demanding spatial and temporal constraints that a given task imposes. Part of the goal of this chapter is to sketch the commitments of an embodied approach to such an explanation. We shall see that an embodied account of motor skills draws concepts that depart radically from more traditional cognitivist theories of motor activity. Similarly, because an embodied approach to cognition introduces new ways to understand the human capacity for social interaction, it also promises to shed new light on how athletes coordinate their actions with each other.

 

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