Research Avenues Supporting Embodied Cognition in Learning and Instruction

Juan C. Castro-Alonso*, Paul Ayres, Shirong Zhang, Björn B. de Koning, Fred Paas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Research on embodied cognition acknowledges that cognitive processing is tightly coupled with bodily activities and the environment. An important implication for education is that learning can be enhanced when the brain, body, and environment mutually influence each other, such as when making or observing human actions, especially those involving hand gestures and manipulation of objects. In this narrative review article, we describe the evidence from six research avenues that can help explain why embodied cognition can enhance learning and instruction. Through the exploration of these six interconnected research pathways, we aim to make a significant contribution by proposing innovative directions for learning and instruction research, all rooted in the principles of embodied cognition. We establish a direct link between the six research pathways and embodied phenomena, both in the contexts of making and observing human movements. When making human movements, the research avenues explaining the learning benefits due to these movements are physical activity, generative learning, and offloaded cognition. When observing human movements, the avenues researching these phenomena are specialized processor and signaling. Lastly, the research avenue social cognition is integral to both making and observing human movements. With originality in focus, we also include research that has not been traditionally associated with embodied cognition or embodiment. This article offers comprehensive discussions, substantiated with evidence and influencing features, for each of these research avenues. We conclude by outlining the implications of these findings for instruction and charting potential directions for future investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Number of pages30
JournalEducational Psychology Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Embodied cognition
  • Embodiment and education
  • Gesture and gesturing
  • Human body action and hand movement
  • Object manipulation and model


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