SHEETS-JOHNSTONE, Maxine. Thinking in movement: further analysis and validations. In: STEWART, John. GAPENNE, Olivier. DI PAOLO, Ezequiel A. (Editors). Enaction: toward a new paradigma for cognitive science. London: A Bradford Book, 2010.


  • Infant spatial perceptions and cognitions are intimately tied to movement and are constituted from the ground up by infants themselves — without a manual and without instruction from anyone. Their spatial intelligence is clearly if at times implicitly evident in descriptive accounts of their developing spatial awarenesses.  p.165
  • Piaget is astonished by the young child ’ s corporeally rooted spatial intention and understanding. p.166
  • from a typical adult point of view, movement is regarded a prelinguistic phenomenon — something that merely chronologically precedes language — when in actuality language is and should be regarded post-kinetic ( Sheets-Johnstone, 1999 ). Language-learning indeed develops on the basis of an infant ’ s fi rst learning its body and learning to move itself. p.166-67
  • ‘ in ’ has been shown to be the fi rst spatial concept understood by an infant/child as signifying perceptually a certain locational relationship — as “ the match is in the matchbox ” — and as signifying behaviorally a certain locational act or acts — as “ I put the match in the matchbox ” ( Clark 1973 , 1979 ; Cook 1978 ; see also Grieve, Hoogenraad, and Murray 1977 ). What requires recognition in this context is similar to what requires recognition with respect to Lucienne ’ s mouth gesture, namely, a recognition of movement as the generative source of spatial concepts, in this instance, the concept of in . p.167
  • … than by the fact that their experiences of in , insides , being inside , and putting inside have been reiterated many times over every day of their lives in such acts as sucking, eating, defecating, urinating, being held in the arms of others, being put in a crib, grasping something in their hand, putting a foot in a shoe, an arm in a sleeve, a thumb in a mouth, and so on. p.167 – pista sobre a relação que o movimento tem com a criação de mundo. Experiência cinética e simbólica – esquema (X) imagem
  • we put the world together in a spatial sense through movement and do so from the very beginning of our lives. Spatial concepts are born in kinesthesia and in our correlative capacity to think in movement. p. 167
  • Yet both the perception and conception of near and far are integral dimensions of our everyday lives: we reach for things that are reachable; we walk to something not quite within reach; we drive or fly to a place that we cannot reach on foot or bicycle; and so on. p.168
  • near and far are basically facts of bodily life: they are rooted in bodily experience, specifi cally experiences of one ’ s tactile-kinesthetic body. p.168
  • All such studies take for granted the tactile-kinesthetic body that is the center of an infant ’ s world, the primary sensory base on which it experiences and explores the world and on which its thinking in movement is grounded. Not only does movement itself attract attention, but moving to touch or to withdraw from something originate in felt kinetic motivations and contribute to an infant ’ s developing spatial knowledge of itself in face of a surrounding world. Near and far are thus tethered to the tactile-kinesthetic body. They are tied to the “ zero-point ” of all possible orientations; that is, as phenomenological philosopher Edmund Husserl points out, everything anyone might experience is “ ‘ there ’ — with the exception of . . . the Body, which is always ‘ here ’ ” ( Husserl 1989 , 166) — or as he later observes, “ I do not have the possibility of distancing myself from my Body ” (167). P.168
  • Visual percepts and concepts of near and far develop on the basis of these original nonlinguistic tactile-kinesthetic perceptions and concepts. The original tactile-kinesthetic meanings of near and far are indeed the basis on which not only later visual percepts and concepts develop but the basis on which more complex tactile-kinesthetic meanings arise. p. 169
  • The objective sense of near and far has its roots in an objective body, a body no longer exclusively experienced as the “ zero-point ” of orientation but as an item in the prevailing landscape, a body that, passing a certain number of doors, walking a set number of blocks, or driving a set number of miles, is experienced as an object in space and as moving in space. p.169
  • Experiencing one ’ s body as an object in space, one commonly experiences not movement, that is, not a kinetic dynamics , but oneself as an object in motion ( Sheets-Johnstone 1979 , 1999 ). The kinetic dynamics of self-movement are swallowed up in the objectification of both body and space; that is, body and space are objectified in ways that turn attention away from if not nullify the kinetic dynamics of movement. The kinetic dynamics, however, remain the sine qua non of the objectification. In other words, experiences of a kinetic dynamics precede in both a chronological and logical sense the experience of oneself as an object in motion. Indeed, the possibility of the latter experience rests on and could not arise without the former experiences. When we learn our bodies and learn to move ourselves, we do so not analytically as objects in motion or objects in space, but dynamically as animate forms.  p.169
  • what famed Russian neurophysiologist Alexander Luria terms “ kinesthetic or kinetic melodies ” — and experiencing oneself as an object in motion turns precisely on the common adult concept of space as a container. The moment one speaks of being “ in space, ” one has objectified it by conceiving it a container filled with objects, a populated repository whose population also includes oneself. p.170
  • An infant does not have a concept of space as a container of objects — chairs, cribs, blankets, and so on — any more than it has a concept of its body as a container of organs, nerves, and muscles. Its elemental, nonlinguistic concept of space is rooted in its immediate experience of itself and the world about it. p.170
  • What is near and what is far are thus in the beginning markers of a spatially open distance between a felt bodily hereness and a thereness of some kind, markers in a tactile-kinesthetic sense of an expanse that neither contains objects nor is itself contained within, or by, a larger universal or worldly space — even the space of a room or a house. p.170
  • so there is a tactile-kinesthetic/tactile-kinetic analogy between putting one ’ s thumb in one ’ s mouth or one ’ s arm in a sleeve and putting one thing inside another. Tactile-kinesthetic analogical thinking is an elemental mode of thinking. p.171
  • Only as an original tactilekinesthetically charged expanse becomes perceived as a container — a becoming undoubtedly helped along by language, which emphasizes early on the naming of containers such as cups, bottles, rooms, houses, cars, and so on — does a young child begin to perceive and conceive her/himself as being in space and to perceive and conceive the world of objects about her/him as being in space.
  • When a container notion of space takes over entirely, thinking in movement loses its lived, dynamic character and becomes no more than a mode of measurement, which, while certainly of everyday practical value, has little or no kinetic value: Can I put all this stuff in the suitcase? How near is the store? How far did I kick the ball? When the practical overruns experiences of a kinetic dynamics, tactile-kinesthetic feelings of movement can fade so far into the background that the kinetic melodies of movement are lost, and with them, experiences of the spatial qualities that make any movement the movement it is. p,171
  • infants continually shape their movement spatially to the intentional urgings that prompt them to move. In a very real sense, they play with movement, discovering kinetic awarenesses and possibilities in the course of moving. p.171
  • Their focus of attention is not on themselves as objects in motion, but on the spatiality of movement itself, what it affords and does not afford with respect to touching things that are near, grasping them, pulling them toward themselves, crawling toward those that are distant, pointing toward them, and so on. This experiential space, or better this tactile-kinesthetic spatiality , has nothing to do with measured or measurable distances but is an experiential dimension of movement itself. Space in this experiential sense is precisely not a container in which movement takes place but a dynamic tactile-kinesthetically charged created space. p.171-72
  • meaning and thinking are basically linked to movement. p.172
  • We experience just such an if/then relationship from the very beginnings of life. p.172
  • All the previously mentioned studies of infants attest to the fact that a tactile-kinesthetic spatiality is there from the beginning, that it is a foundational dimension of our thinking in movement, and that thinking in movement is our original — and abiding — mode of thinking. p.172
  • We built our knowledge of movement and of the world on the basis of having learned our bodies and learned to move ourselves. We accomplished such learning by thinking in movement. p.172
  • As adults, we nevertheless have the possibility of experiencing fundamental aspects of space, that is, fundamental aspects of what we already know as “ space ” simply by paying attention to our experience of movement. p.172-73
  • in the beginning, movement is not a pregiven program of proficiencies and capacities, but something we must actively learn — precisely by moving ourselves.  Kinesthesia — the experience of self-movement — is the ground on which we do so. p.173
  • When we learn to walk, we learn a complex and challenging coordination dynamics that is, again, kinesthetically felt. Indeed, kinesthesia is an ever-present modality whether one is an infant or an adult. p.173
  • Kinesthesia is central to animate life, a fact dramatically illustrated both by the loss of the modality ( Gallagher and Cole 1995 ; Cole 1995 ) and by its neuro-embryology: kinesthesia and tactility are the first sensory systems to develop. In brief, kinesthesia is the gateway to those coordination dynamics that make the world familiar to us and allow us to know what to expect ( Sheets-Johnstone 1999 , 2003 ). p.173
  • In sum, we build our perceptions and conceptions of space originally in the process of moving ourselves, in tactile-kinesthetic experiences that in fact go back to prenatal life where the movement that takes a thumb to a mouth originates ( Furuhjelm, Ingelman-Sundberg, and Wirs é n 1966 ). When we learn our bodies and learn to move ourselves, we are kinesthetically attuned to a kinetic dynamics — to kinesthetic melodies — and our concepts of space are grounded in that dynamics.  p.174
  • We might in fact say that our capacity to think in movement takes a turn for the worse when we come to objectify ourselves, and this because, in objectifying ourselves, we easily lose touch with our fi rstperson moving bodies. p.174
  • We may forget that thinking in movement precedes thinking in words. To remain true to the truths of experience, we must obviously go back to experience. p,174
  • Thinking in movement is in fact the bedrock of our intelligence in more than an ontogenetic sense: it is not only an empirically evident ontogenetical fact, but an empirically evident phylogenetic fact (see Sheets-Johnstone 1999 , 507 – 516). That is, thinking in movement is part of our evolutionary as well as developmental history. p.174
  • The invention of a verbal language is in fact grounded in the capacity to think in movement with respect both to an awareness of oneself as a sound-maker and to generated meanings. p. 175
  • meaning is linked to movement, but that thinking is linked to movement. That is, our most fundamental concepts come from the body, from a kinetic bodily logos or intelligence ( Sheets-Johnstone 1990 ). Clearly, from the viewpoint of the origin and evolution of verbal languages, humans did not think basically in words but in movement. p.175
  • Cooperation in this sense is grounded in being attentive and in noticing. Without a quintessential awareness of the direction, rhythm, and fl ow of individual and mass movements by prey and fellow predator alike, there could be no concerted action toward picking out a suitable prey ( Sheets-Johnstone 1986 ). p.175
  • To cooperate is thus a social phenomenon, an elemental reciprocal being-with-others that anchors the very possibility of being perceptually attuned to, and of kinetically tuning, a particular global situation toward a common good. p.177
  • Balancing and choosing in this way are not abstract refl ective maneuvers but actively lived-through structures in the form of judgments, discriminations, and movements, whether in the context of a hunt or of a team sport. They are palpable forms of intelligence that are grounded in the having of and being part of an interanimate world. p.177
  • a judgment-mediated choice of movement and an anticipation of its effect are articulated in the flesh. p.177
  • Anticipation is at the core of these strategies. In nonabstract, existential terms, anticipation means that an animal has a general, but not imprecise knowledge about the way in which creatures in its environment move and react and may be expected to move and react. More specifically, it means knowledge of one ’ s fellow creatures as moving lines of force and of oneself as a moving line of force. p.177
  • To anticipate a future in terms of moving lines of force is to think concretely in kinetic terms and in so doing to wield a concrete power of intelligence. p.178
  • To think in movement toward a future moment is in all such instances to have a sense of the power of movement, and in potential as well as actual terms, that is, as possible or present lines of force that can meet, and in such a way that one line can cancel out the other. p.178
  • In 1974, neurophysiologist E. V. Evarts wrote that “ understanding of the human nervous system, even its most complex intellectual functions, may be enriched if the operation of the brain is analyzed in terms of its motor output rather than in terms of its sensory input ” ( Evarts 1974 , 1398). p.178
  • the experience of the organism is integrated, organized, and has its meaning in terms of coordinated movement ” ( Sperry 1939 , 295). p.178



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