What Is morphological computation? On how the body contributes to cognition and control

Vincent C. Müller, Matej Hoffmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)
27 Downloads (Pure)


The contribution of the body to cognition and control in natural and artificial agents is increasingly described as "offloading computation from the brain to the body," where the body is said to perform "morphological computation." Our investigation of four characteristic cases of morphological computation in animals and robots shows that the "offloading" perspective is misleading. Actually, the contribution of body morphology to cognition and control is rarely computational, in any useful sense of the word. We thus distinguish (1) morphology that facilitates control, (2) morphology that facilitates perception, and the rare cases of (3) morphological computation proper, such as reservoir computing, where the body is actually used for computation. This result contributes to the understanding of the relation between embodiment and computation: The question for robot design and cognitive science is not whether computation is offloaded to the body, but to what extent the body facilitates cognition and control - how it contributes to the overall orchestration of intelligent behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalArtificial Life
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Body
  • Cognition
  • Computation
  • Control
  • Embodiment
  • Soft robotics
  • cognition
  • control
  • embodiment
  • soft robotics
  • computation


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