Exploring Visceral Experiences of Physiology: The Role of Embodied Cognition in Fostering Transformative Learning

Barriers to embodied cognition—or integrated emotional and cognitive brain functions—interrupt the transformative learning process, which is vital to healthy adult development, and decrease the potential for a self-authoring, transcendent, and humanistic society. This conceptual paper seeks to advance Mälkki’s enhancement of the emotional dimension of Mezirow’s transformative learning theory by examining how visceral processes of a disorienting dilemma; “felt sense,” “flocking,” and “edge emotion” lock down embodied cognition and create a barrier to transformative learning. These microprocesses impede the stabilization and potential for processing emotion in “comfort zones.” Thus, sensemaking, which is essential to promoting healing, is blocked, preventing effective meaning making in critical reflection, necessary for transformative learning. To resolve this, the author proposes a full processing of grief, including both anger and sadness (not just one or the other), is key to unlocking disembodied cognition for an individual’s movement toward self-examination and eventual critical reflection. Through this discussion, the author seeks to stimulate new thinking about this gap in the literature; catalyze future empirical studies focusing on barriers, microprocesses, and phasic transitions of Mezirow’s theory; and identify adaptive strategies to unlock disembodied cognition facilitating transformative learning.

Key Words: Transformative Learning, Embodied Cognition, Sensemaking, Meaning Making

Format: Paper Presentation


Patricia Carter, University of Georgia
Session Date & Time: Wed, 06 Apr 2022 | 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM EDT