People can be taught to manipulate symbols according to formal mathematical and logical rules. Cognitive scientists have traditionally viewed this capacity—the capacity for symbolic reasoning—as grounded in the ability to internally represent numbers, logical relationships, and mathematical rules in an abstract, amodal fashion. We present an alternative view, portraying symbolic reasoning as a special kind of embodied reasoning in which arithmetic and logical formulae, externally represented as notations, serve as targets for powerful perceptual and sensorimotor systems. Although symbolic reasoning often conforms to abstract mathematical principles, it is typically implemented by perceptual and sensorimotor engagement with concrete environmental structures.
Keywords: human reasoning, formal logic, mathematics, embodied cognition, perception
Citation: Landy D, Allen C and Zednik C (2014) A perceptual account of symbolic reasoning. Front. Psychol. 5:275. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00275
Received: 11 December 2013; Accepted: 14 March 2014;
Published online: 21 April 2014.
Edited by:Guy Dove, University of Louisville, USA
Reviewed by:Guy Dove, University of Louisville, USA
Copyright © 2014 Landy, Allen and Zednik. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
*Correspondence: David Landy, Psychological and Brain Science/Cognitive Science, Indiana University, 107 s Indiana Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA e-mail: email@example.com;
Colin Allen, History and Philosophy of Science/Cognitive Science, Indiana University, 107 s Indiana Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org