Kinetic Memories. An embodied form of remembering the personal past

Journal of Mind and Behavior 42 (2):139-174 (2021)
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Despite the popularity that the embodied cognition thesis has gained in recent years, explicit memories of events personally experienced are still conceived as disembodied mental representations. It seems that we can consciously remember our personal past through sensory imagery, through concepts, propositions and language, but not through the body. In this article, I defend the idea that the body constitutes a genuine means of representing past personal experiences. For this purpose, I focus on the analysis of bodily movements associated with the retrieval of a personal memory, which have certain features that make them different from procedural memories, pragmatic actions and common gestures, as well as other forms of embodied memories found in recent literature. I refer to these as “kinetic memories” and analyse their representative nature as well as their adaptive functions. Kinetic memories are bodily movements in which some event or action that took place in the past can be seen, because they are an externalisation of the subject’s inner intention of representing a past personal experience. Kinetic memories represent a past experience sometimes by imitation of a past movement, and other times through embodied symbols and metaphors. Furthermore, although sometimes they present direct pragmatic benefits, such as communicative benefits, they seem to enhance the whole reexperience of the past event and memory recall, which I argue is one important adaptive value.

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