Monday, March 14, 2011

Mirroring people: the new science of how we connect with others

by Marco Iacoboni

This book is very science-y but not too technical. Also, don't read this if non-lethal neurological animal experimentation will upset you.

It's about the discovery and study of "mirror neurons," which discovery has implications for the study of communication via facial expression; autism spectrum disorders; learning and cognition; physical coordination and proprioception; to name a few. Basically, in addition to the neurons that fire when you actually do something (move your hand, for example) you also have a set of mirror neurons that go off when you think about moving your hand or see someone else moving their hand. In a sense, these neurons allow you to practice mentally various movements. In terms of empathy, they are a step beyond simply imagining another person's feelings because your brain is actually physically pretending to have the same emotions by mentally mimicking the other person's facial expressions and body language.

More to it, of course, but that's kind of the nutshell version. Very interesting and not too long, so no need to be intimidated by the science-ness.

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