Something really weird happened today: A duplication of Shannon’s post on mirror neurons and simulation theory appeared out of the blue under my name (Gualtiero). I apologize for the inconvenience; I had nothing to do with it and hopefully it won’t happen again. (The tech support people didn’t have an explanation, so I wonder…)
Some people tried to post comments to the duplicate post. To try to prevent confusion, I will post these comments here and then delete the duplicate entry. Feel free to continue discussing the following points in the comments to this post.
Update [11/23/09, 6:30 pm]: more weirdness. As I (Gualtiero) published this post, it appeared on the blog under Shannon’s name. At the same time, her original post disappeared (with the original comments; unfortunately those are lost). I talked to the tech support people again — and again, they had no explanation and did not offer any help . So I must apologize again. I truly hope this is the end of blogging weirdness.
Here are the comments to the duplicate post:
11/23/2009 2:04 PM Bill wrote:
I think that what the fMRI studies show is that we activate the same areas of nonverbal cortex when observing another’s behaviour as we use when producing similar nonverbal behaviours. To the extent that Theory Theory has the common philosophical flaw of reducing nonverbal thinking to verbal thinking, I think the fMRI studies show it is incorrect. However this does not mean that we don’t use such theories in predicting others. It’s likely both TT and simulation theories have some truth.
11/23/2009 2:10 PM James wrote:
Cecilia Heyes had a counter at the Susan Hurley memorial conference earlier this year to the MN evidence for ST thesis.
I can’t find a reference at the moment. But this is from something I wrote at the time:
“Heyes has a different—rather deflationary—story to tell. She notes that associative learning mechanisms, whereby brain regions become associated with others, are not unusual in the brain. All that is needed is some sort of initial synchronicity in the firing of the two brain regions. Given frequent repetition of synchronous activation over time brain regions display activation akin to ‘mirroring’, about which however we may tell a story about the individuals past experience, not about evolutionary benefits.
Heyes presents evidence that mirroring does not actually appear to apparent from birth, and that it is subject to the development of expertise. Her suggestion is that mirroring develops because of the frequency with which we both perform and action and observe the same action at the same time. These occasions include self-observation, self-observation in mirrors and participation is activities such as training, dancing and sports in which one has to perform the same actions as others around you.
One snippet of information in support of this is the fact that Male and Female ballet dancers show higher activation when observing gender-specific dance movements of their own gender. Such moves have reinforced mirroring due to the fact that ballet dancers always practise in front of mirrors, and in early training, alongside dancers performing the same actions.
Thus, she suggests, mirror neurons are simply another instance of associative learning, a phenomenon which has many benefits and most likely evolved due the the advantage of much more basic functions rather than because they facilitated the higher human social functions suggested which most likely emerged much later in the evolution of humans.”
11/23/2009 4:16 PM Daniel Weiskopf wrote:
Hi Shannon. This is somewhat orthogonal to your main question, but I (and others) am pretty sceptical about mirror neurons and their standard interpretation. There was a great series of posts at the Talking Brains blog about this. Some choice bits to consult are: