What is embodied and analogical learning?
The fact that the brain is embodied is crucial to understanding how brains function when they are learning. The brain is not just inside the skull like a walnut in a shell. It is a body-brain, connected with and responsive to every part of the body. And every part of the body contributes to all the functions of brain we commonly call mind.
Between sensory perception and cognitive knowing is the embodied brain busily constructing what we eventually recognize as thought—that is, meaning we are aware of and can act on. What we call thinking is just the final step in a long process of knowing that takes place throughout the body before we consciously discover that we know something.
To learn, the brain must associate any new experience with what it already knows. These analogical/metaphorical connections, accompanied by changes in body state (emotion), occur below the level of awareness, as neural networks are created and elaborated. These networks are based on somatic (body-based) impressions that begin in infancy and become increasingly complex in light of successive experiences.
Experts in many fields—cognitive science, philosophy of mind, psychology, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence—note: learning is a whole-body experience in which emotion and analogy play major roles. [See what experts say; you can pause and resume scrolling column .]
Instructors, trainers, coaches, mentors, faculty, advisors, and professional developers—in fact, any adult—can benefit from understanding how to facilitate learning with the embodied brain in mind.