Psyc 180 February 9, 2012
Who Gets to Explain the Social Brain?
The rise, dissemination, and controversy of mirror neurons
Might explain why people feel empathy
Brain uses them to mirror movements it sees
Sports fans picture themselves playing when they watch the game
o How are emotional system and motor system connected together?
Although mirror neurons have served as the cornerstone for explanations of human
empathy, communication, language, imitation, learning, autism, controversies
surrounding the existence and role of mirror neurons have openly emerged since 2007.
o Why did it take so long to be controversial?
The question is not whether mirror neurons are factual or not, but rather the process of
dissemination and the subsequent controversies surrounding them.
o Trajectory of theories surrounding mirror neurons since their discovery
o Motivations behind their interdisciplinary appropriation
o Motivations driving the controversies about their existence and function
Bruno Latour‟s Rule of Method
o Rule 1: we study science in action and not ready made science or technology; to
do so, we either arrive before the facts and machines are blackboxed or we follow
the controversies that reopen them.
What transformations did mirror neurons undergo?
o First principle: the fat of facts and machines is in later users‟ hands; their qualities
are thus a consequence, not a cause, of a collective action
o Rules of method #2: to determine the objectivity of a claim, the efficiency or
perfection of a mechanism, we do not look for their intrinsic qualities
Part 1: Thematic Trajectories
o Three primary source publications for mirror neurones:
“understanding of motor events”
Extends function of premotor cortex “to include movement selection
related to interpersonal relations”
1996 – introduction of term “mirror neurons”
Monkey F5 language is implicated.
Less than 10 more studies emerge worldwide regarding
neurophysiology of mirror neurons since 1996.
o 1950 publications cited the original three papers
o Growth in term “social” in mirror neuron literature in 2005-2006
In addition to “language” and “autism”
o Take home points: Psyc 180