We describe the “somatic marker hypothesis” proposed by Damasio (1996) to account for the ability of most people to make decisions quickly and continually in the course of their lives. We relate this hypothesis to two other theoretical constructs, emotional orientations and purposes, which we have used in our research on students' reasoning and teachers' decision making. Given that somatic markers are a part of unconscious mental activity, they cannot be observed by introspective reflection. How then can we research something we cannot see? Beginning with the hypothesis that somatic markers influence actions, we observe, particularly, the actions of student teachers, teachers and children in mathematics classrooms at points where they make decisions. This process is illustrated through examples both of teaching and learning in mathematics, and through the account (see Op't Eynde and Hannula, this issue) of ‘Frank’ reflecting on his decision-making in mathematical activity. We use the case of Frank to illustrate some differences between viewing mathematical activity from our perspective and from those of some other contributors to this special issue. The connections between emotional orientations, somatic markers and purposes are further illustrated by two examples drawn from our research into teacher development and students' reasoning processes.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bateson, G.: 2000, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, (Original edition published in 1976), University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Brown, L. and Coles, A.: 2000, ‘Complex decision-making in the classroom: The teacher as an intuitive practitioner’, in T. Atkinson and G. Claxton (eds.), The Intuitive Practitioner: On the Value of Not Always Knowing What One Is Doing, Open University Press, Milton Keynes, pp. 165–181.
Brown, L. and Dobson, A.: 1996, ‘Using dissonance — finding the grit in the oyster’, in G. Claxton, T. Atkinson, M. Osborn and M. Wallace (eds.), Liberating the Learner: Lessons for Professional Development in Education, Routledge, London, pp. 212–227.
Damasio, A.: 1996, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, Papermac, London.
Damasio, A.: 1999, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, Harcourt Brace, Orlando, Florida.
Drodge, E. and Reid, D.: 2001, ‘Embodied cognition and the mathematical emotional orientation’, Mathematical Thinking and Learning 2(4), 249–267.
Lakoff, G.: 1987, Women, Fire and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Maturana, H.R.: 1988a, ‘Reality: The search for objectivity or the quest for a compelling argument’, The Irish Journal of Psychology 9(1), 25–82.
Maturana, H.R.: 1988b, ‘Ontology of observing: The biological foundations of self consciousness and the physical domain of existence’, Conference Workbook: Texts in Cybernetics, American Society for Cybernetics Conference, Felton, CA., 18–23, October, 1988, http://www.inteco.cl/biology/ontology/..
Maturana, H.R.: 1987, ‘Everything said is said by an observer’, in W. Thompso (ed.), Gaia: A Way of Knowing, Lindisfarne Press, Hudson, NY, pp. 65–82.
Reid, D.A.: 2002, ‘Elements in accepting an explanation’, Journal of Mathematical Behavior 20(4), 527–547.
Reid, D.A.: 1996, ‘Enactivism as a methodology’, Proceedings of the Twentieth Annual Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, Vol. 4, Valencia, Spain, pp. 203–210.
Reid, D.A.: 1995, The Need to Prove, Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Secondary Education, University of Alberta, Edmonton.
Reid, D., Brown, L. and Coles, A.: 2001, ‘Observing systems’, Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, Utrecht, The Netherlands, p. 274.
Skemp, R.R.: 1986, The Psychology of Learning Mathematics, 2nd ed., Pelican.
Varela, F.J.: 1999, Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom And Cognition, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
About this article
Cite this article
Brown, L., Reid, D.A. Embodied Cognition: Somatic Markers, Purposes and Emotional Orientations. Educ Stud Math 63, 179–192 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10649-006-9027-3
- embodied cognition
- emotional orientations
- somatic markers
- teacher education