Mirror neurons are not evidence for the Simulation Theory

Synthese 189 (3):515-534 (2012)
Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in theories of mindreading. New discoveries in neuroscience have revitalized the languishing debate. The discovery of so-called mirror neurons has revived interest particularly in the Simulation Theory (ST) of mindreading. Both ST proponents and theorists studying mirror neurons have argued that mirror neurons are strong evidence in favor of ST over Theory Theory (TT). In this paper I argue against the prevailing view that mirror neurons are evidence for the ST of mindreading. My view is that on an appropriate construal of their function, mirror neurons do not operate like simulation theorists claim. In fact, mirror neurons are more appropriately understood as one element in an information-rich mindreading process. As such, mirror neurons fit in better with some sort of TT account of mindreading. I offer a positive account, the Model TT, which better explains the role of mirror neurons in social cognition.
Keywords Social cognition  Simulation theory  Mindreading  Theory of mind  Mirror neurons
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-012-0086-y
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Shannon Spaulding (2012). Introduction to Debates on Embodied Social Cognition. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 11 (4):431-448.
William E. S. McNeill (2015). Seeing What You Want. Consciousness and Cognition 36:554-564.

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