Understanding minds in real-world environments: toward a mobile cognition approach

Simon Ladouce, David I. Donaldson, Paul A. Dudchenko, Magdalena Ietswaart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


There is a growing body of evidence that important aspects of human cognition have been marginalized, or overlooked, by traditional cognitive science. In particular, the use of laboratory-based experiments in which stimuli are artificial, and response options are fixed, inevitably results in findings that are less ecologically valid in relation to real-world behavior. In the present review we highlight the opportunities provided by a range of new mobile technologies that allow traditionally lab-bound measurements to now be collected during natural interactions with the world. We begin by outlining the theoretical support that mobile approaches receive from the development of embodied accounts of cognition, and we review the widening evidence that illustrates the importance of examining cognitive processes in their context. As we acknowledge, in practice, the development of mobile approaches brings with it fresh challenges, and will undoubtedly require innovation in paradigm design and analysis. If successful, however, the mobile cognition approach will offer novel insights in a range of areas, including understanding the cognitive processes underlying navigation through space and the role of attention during natural behavior. We argue that the development of real-world mobile cognition offers both increased ecological validity, and the opportunity to examine the interactions between perception, cognition and action—rather than examining each in isolation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number694
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2017


  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Ecological validity
  • EEG
  • Embodiment
  • Mobile brain imaging
  • Situated cognition


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