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Dynamic grounding of emotion concepts

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Emotion concepts are important. They help us to understand, experience and predict human behaviour. Emotion concepts also link the realm of the abstract with the realm of bodily experience and actions. Accordingly, the key question is how such concepts are created, represented and used. Embodied cognition theories hold that concepts are grounded in neural systems that produce experiential and motor states. Concepts are also contextually situated and thus engage sensorimotor resources in a dynamic, flexible way. Finally, on that framework, conceptual understanding unfolds in time, reflecting embodied as well as linguistic and cultural influences. In this article, we review empirical work on emotion concepts and show how it highlights their grounded, yet dynamic and context-sensitive nature. The conclusions are consistent with recent developments in embodied cognition that allow concepts to be linked to sensorimotor systems, yet be flexibly sensitive to current representational and action needs.This article is part of the theme issue 'Varieties of abstract concepts: development, use and representation in the brain'.

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