Cognitive scientist Benjamin K.Bergen’s Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning recounts that the parts of the brain engaged when throwing a baseball also fire up when visualizing the same action..
Starting as early as the 1970s, some cognitive psychologists, philosophers, and linguists began to wonder whether meaning wasn’t something totally different from a language of thought [Call it Mentalese, whichtranslates words into actual concepts: a polar bear or speed limit, for instance]. They suggested that—instead of abstract symbols—meaning might really be something much more closely intertwined with our real experiences in the world, with the bodies that we have. As a self-conscious movement started to take form, it took on a name, embodiment, which started to stand for the idea that meaning might be something that isn’t distilled away from our bodily experiences but is instead tightly bound by them. For you, the word dog might have a deep and rich meaning that involves the ways you physically interact with dogs—how they look and smell and feel. But the meaning of polar bear will be totally different, because you likely don’t have those same experiences of direct interaction.