Action understanding, motor resonance, and embodied simulation in sports: bridging ecological and neuroscientific approaches

Ana Maria Abreu , Pedro Esteves, Salvatore Maria Aglioti

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The concept of embodiment has become a useful tool for sport scientists who use it to try to understand proficient performance and motor expertise. However, there seems to be a divide between ecological and neuroscientific approaches to embodiment that should be accounted for in the field of sport science. An ecological approach to human behavior adopts dynamical systems tools for understanding the unfolding nature of the human cognitive processes at the level of individual-environment interactions. This approach seeks to analyze how coordinated patterns of behavior evolve over time under multiple internal and external influences. It therefore takes mind, body, and environment to be conceived as highly interactive systems. A neuroscientific approach, on the other hand, seeks to explain human behavior in view of the boundaries and possibilities of neural functioning. However, neural functioning does not operate in isolation. It is embedded in a specific environment, where internal and external influences interact. Thus, it is a mistake to think that these approaches represent different interpretations of embodiment (one in which cognition occurs beyond the brain and one in which cognition occurs within the brain). In fact, the extant gap between approaches stems from the different levels of analysis as well as from the distinct sources of knowledge employed by each contender. When scrutinizing each approach, we find that each is not only consistent with, but also significantly contributes to, strengthening the argument of the other.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of embodied cognition and sport psychology
PublisherThe MIT Press
ISBN (Print)9780262038508
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Action understanding, motor resonance, and embodied simulation in sports: bridging ecological and neuroscientific approaches'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this