A perceptual account of symbolic reasoning

David Landy, Colin Allen, Carlos Zednik

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35 Citations (Scopus)


People can be taught to manipulate symbols according to formal mathematical and logical rules. Cognitive scientists have traditionally viewed this capacity-the capacity for symbolic reasoning-as grounded in the ability to internally represent numbers, logical relationships, and mathematical rules in an abstract, amodal fashion. We present an alternative view, portraying symbolic reasoning as a special kind of embodied reasoning in which arithmetic and logical formulae, externally represented as notations, serve as targets for powerful perceptual and sensorimotor systems. Although symbolic reasoning often conforms to abstract mathematical principles, it is typically implemented by perceptual and sensorimotor engagement with concrete environmental structures.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 275
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberAPR
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Embodied cognition
  • Formal logic
  • Human reasoning
  • Mathematics
  • Perception

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