Mirror neurons are widely regarded as an important key to social cognition. Despite such wide agreement, there is very little consensus on how or why they are important. The goal of this paper is to clearly explicate the exact role mirror neurons play in social cognition. I aim to answer two questions about the relationship between mirroring and social cognition: What kind of social understanding is involved with mirroring? How is mirroring related to that understanding? I argue that (...) philosophical and empirical considerations lead us to accord a fairly minimal role for mirror neurons in social cognition. (shrink)
The discovery of mirror neurons in both primates and humans has led to an enormous amount of research and speculation as to how conscious beings are able to interact so effortlessly among one another. Mirror neurons might provide an embodied basis for passive synthesis and the eventual process of further communalization through empathy, as envisioned by Edmund Husserl. I consider the possibility of a phenomenological and scientific investigation of laughter as a point of connection that might in the (...) future bridge the gap Husserl feared had grown too expansive between the worlds of science and philosophy. Part I will describe some implications of the discovery of mirror neurons. Part II will address Husserl’s concept of embodiment as it relates to neuroscience and empathy. Part III will be a primer to investigating laughter phenomenologically. Part IV will be a continuation of the study of laughter and empathy as possible elements helpful in broadening the scope of what Husserl calls the Life-World. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
Mindreading is the ability to attribute mental states to other individuals. According to the simulation theory (ST), mindreading is based on the ability the mind has of replicating others' mental states and processes. Mirror neurons (MNs) are a class of neurons that fire both when an agent performs a goal-directed action and when she observes the same type of action performed by another individual. Since MNs appear to form a replicative mechanism in which a portion of the observer's (...) brain replicates the agent's brain, MNs have been considered evidence in favor of ST. Jacob (2008), however, has maintained that the recent discovery of so-called logically related MNs refutes the hypothesis that MNs form a replicative mechanism. In this paper, I argue that, contrary to what is claimed by Jacob, one can accept the existence of logically related MNs and, at the same time, still maintain that the activity of MNs is replicative. It follows that MNs still support ST. (shrink)
The same neural structures involved in the unconscious modeling of our acting body in space also contribute to our awareness of the lived body and of the objects that the world contains. Neuroscientific research also shows that there are neural mechanisms mediating between the multi-level personal experience we entertain of our lived body, and the implicit certainties we simultaneously hold about others. Such personal and body-related experiential knowledge enables us to understand the actions performed by others, and to directly decode (...) the emotions and sensations they experience. A common functional mechanism is at the basis of both body awareness and basic forms of social understanding: embodied simulation. It will be shown that the present proposal is consistent with some of the perspectives offered by phenomenology. (shrink)
This paper raises fundamental questions about the claims of art historian David Freedberg and neuroscientist Vittorio Gallese in their article "Motion, Emotion and Empathy in Esthetic Experience." It does so from several perspectives, all of them rooted in the dynamic realities of movement. It shows on the basis of neuroscientific research how connectivity and pruning are of unmistakable import in the interneuronal dynamic patternings in the human brain from birth onward. In effect, it shows that mirror neurons are contingent (...) on morphology and corporeal-kinetic tactile-kinesthetic experience. Accordingly, it poses and answers the overlooked but seminally important question of how mirror neurons come to be. The original neuromuscular research of Parma neuroscientists and the findings of Marc Jeannerod concerning kinesthesia support the answer that the "underpinnings" of visual art appreciation are themselves underpinned. An abbreviated phenomenological analysis of movement and its implications regarding the fact that the making of all art is quintessentially contingent on movement, hence a dynamic enterprise, further bolster the given answer as does a brief review of an empirical phenomenological analysis of the natural dynamic congruency of emotions and movement. In the end, the paper shows that movement and life are of a piece in the creation and appreciation of art as in everyday life. (shrink)
Mirror neurons are neurons which fire in two distinct conditions: (i) when an agent performs a specific action, like a precision grasp of an object using fingers, and (ii) when an agent observes that action performed by another. Some theorists have suggested that the existence of such neurons may lend support to the simulation approach to mindreading (e.g. Gallese and Goldman, 1998, 'Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind reading'). In this note I critically examine (...) this suggestion, in both its original and a revised form (due to Iacoboni et al., 2005, 'Grasping the intentions of others with one's own mirror neuron system'), and argue that the existence of mirror neurons can in fact tell us very little about how intentional attribution actually proceeds. (shrink)
The neurological discovery of mirror neurons is of eminent importance for the phenomenological theory of intersubjectivity. G. Rizzolatti and V. Gallese found in experiments with primates that a set of neurons in the premotor cortex represents the visually registered movements of another animal. The activity of these mirror neurons presents exactly the same pattern of activity as appears in the movement of one's own body. These findings may be extended to other cognitive and emotive functions in humans. (...) I show how these neurological findings might be “translated” phenomenologically into our own experienced sensations, feelings and volitions. (shrink)
According to an influential view, one function of mirror neurons (MNs), first discovered in the brain of monkeys, is to underlie third-person mindreading. This view relies on two assumptions: the activity of MNs in an observer’s brain matches (simulates or resonates with) that of MNs in an agent’s brain and this resonance process retrodictively generates a representation of the agent’s intention from a perception of her movement. In this paper, I criticize both assumptions and I argue instead that the (...) activity of MNs in an observer’s brain is enhanced by a prior representation of the agent’s intention and that their task is to predictively compute the best motor command suitable to satisfy the agent’s intention. (shrink)
Both macaque monkeys and humans have been shown to have what are called ‘mirror neurons’, a class of neurons that respond to goal-related motor-actions, both when these actions are performed by the subject and when they are performed by another individual observed by the subject. Gallese and Goldman (1998) contend that mirror neurons may be seen as ‘a part of, or a precursor to, a more general mind- reading ability’, and that of the two competing theories of (...) mind-reading, mirror neurons lend support to simulation theory. I here offer four reasons why I think mirror neurons do not provide support for simulation theory over its contender, theory theory. (shrink)
The discovery of mirror neurons has been hailed as one of the most exciting developments in neuroscience in the past few decades. These neurons discharge in response to the observation of others’ actions. But how are we to understand the function of these neurons? In this paper I defend the idea that mirror neurons are best conceived as components of a sensory system that has the function to perceive action. In short, mirror neurons are part (...) of a hitherto unrecognized “sixth sense”. In this spirit, research should move toward developing a psychophysics of mirror neurons. (shrink)
Single cell recordings in monkeys provide strong evidence for an important role of the motor system in action understanding. This evidence is backed up by data from studies of the (human) mirror neuron system using neuroimaging or TMS techniques, and behavioral experiments. Although the data acquired from single cell recordings are generally considered to be robust, several debates have shown that the interpretation of these data is far from straightforward. We will show that research based on single-cell recordings allows for (...) unlimited content attribution to mirror neurons. We will argue that a theoretical analysis of the mirroring process, combined with behavioral and brain studies, can provide the necessary limitations. A complexity analysis of the type of processing attributed to the mirror neuron system can help formulate restrictions on what mirroring is and what cognitive functions could, in principle, be explained by a mirror mechanism. We argue that processing at higher levels of abstraction needs assistance of non-mirroring processes to such an extent that subsuming the processes needed to infer goals from actions under the label ?mirroring? is not warranted. (shrink)
Despite the impressive body of evidence supporting the existence of a mirror neuron (MN) system for action, the original claim regarding its crucial role in action understanding remains controversial. Emma Borg has recently launched a sharp attack on this claim, with the aim of demonstrating that neither the original version nor the subsequent revisions of the MN hypothesis tell us very much about how intentional attribution actually works. In this article I take up the challenge she issues in the title (...) of her paper (If Mirror Neurons are the Answer, What was the Question?) and argue that what MNs offer is not as Borg claims 'an extremely limited' picture of action understanding but rather an enriched picture that brings to light aspects of social cognition hitherto ignored in the mind-reading literature, showing how intentional motor components of action can shape social cognition prior to and apart from any forms of deliberate mentalizing. (shrink)
This article distinguishes three archetypal ways of articulating spatial cognition: (1) via metric representation of objective geometry, (2) via somatosensory constitution of the peripersonal environment, and (3) via pragmatic comprehension of the finalistic sense of action. The last one is documented by neuroscientific studies concerning mirror neurons. Bio-robotic experiments implementing mirror functions confirm the constitutive role of goal-oriented actions in spatial processes.
Primatologists generally agree that monkeys lack higher-order intentional capacities related to theory of mind. Yet the discovery of the so-called “mirror neurons” in monkeys suggests to many neuroscientists that they have the rudiments of intentional understanding. Given a standard philosophical view about intentional understanding, which requires higher-order intentionality, a paradox arises. Different ways of resolving the paradox are assessed, using evidence from neural, cognitive, and behavioral studies of humans and monkeys. A decisive resolution to the paradox requires substantial additional (...) empirical work and perhaps a rejection of the standard philosophical view. (shrink)
Positing the importance of sensorimotor contingencies for perception is by no means denying the presence and importance of representations. Using the evidence of mirror neurons we will show the intrinsic relationship between action control and representation within the logic of forward models.
The evolutionary continuity between the prespeech functions of premotor cortex and its new linguistic functions, the main thesis of MacNeilage's target article, is confirmed by the recent discovery of “mirror” neurons in monkeys and a corresponding action-observation/action-execution matching system in humans. Physiological data (and other considerations) appear to indicate, however, that brachiomanual gestures played a greater role in language evolution than MacNeilage would like to admit.
Chaotic dynamics can be related to analog computation. A possibility of electronically implementing the chaos-driven contracting system in the target article is explored with an analog electronic circuit with inevitable noise from the viewpoint of analog computation with chaotic neurons.
Commonsense says we are isolated. After all, our bodies are physically separate. But Seneca’s colamus humanitatem, and John Donne’s observation that “no man is an island” suggests we are neither entirely isolated nor separate. A recent discovery in neuroscience—that of mirror neurons—argues that the brain and the mind is neither built nor functions remote from what happens in other individuals. What are mirror neurons? They are brain cells that process both what happens to or is done by an (...) individual, and, as it were, its perceived “refl ection,” when that same thing happens or is done by another individual. Thus, mirror neurons are both activated when an individual does a particular action, and when that individual perceives that same action done by another. The discovery of mirror neurons suggests we need to radically revise our notions of human nature since they offer a means by which we may not be so separated as we think. Humans unlike other apes are adapted to mirror interact nonverbally when together. Notably, our faces have been evolved to display agile and nimble movements. While this is usually explained as enabling nonverbal communication, a better description would be nonverbal commune based upon mirror neurons. I argue we cherish humanity, colamus humanitatem, because mirror neurons and our adapted mirror interpersonal interface blur the physical boundaries that separate us. (shrink)
Mirror neurons are a particular class of visumotorical neurons, originally discovered in area F5 of the monkey premotorical cortex. They discharge both (1) when the animal performs a specific action and (2) when it observes a similar action. Actually, it is often assumed that this unique functioning could explain different abilities ranging from imitation behaviour to faculty of speech. In this article, we discuss the question what is meant by the expression: The neuron x mirrors the action y (...) by perception z . The problem resulted from the fact, that neurons cannot mirror anythingâexcept in the light of a metaphorical description. How can this metaphorical description be dissolved for a distinct and explicit scientific terminology? The basic steps of our argumentation are as follows. (1) The expression to mirror can be defined in mutual relation between different types of actions in respect of at least two participants: the proponent A, who conducts a special action x (e.g. grapping a peanut (A(x)) and the opponent B who observes these actions y (B(y)) and vice versa. (2) In order to detect different tokens as a type of action and to guarantee the changes of the participants there must be constituted a speech act in a dialogue, in which types of actions are defined by the invariance of special equivalence. (3) The change of the participants represents and defines the metaphorical expression to mirror in the light of a non-metaphorical and reproducible schema. (4) Then, the invariance of the type of action can be identified in different speech acts. Three of them (called narratives) were defined paradigmatically: (4.1) the ethological-narrative; (4.2) the neurophysiological-narrative; (4.3) the language-narrative. (5) These narratives are the modelling and explicit formulations of the primarily metaphorical expression: The neuron x mirrors the action y by perception z. (shrink)
Various deficits in the cognitive functioning of people with autism have been documented in recent years but these provide only partial explanations for the condition. We focus instead on an imitative disturbance involving difficulties both in copying actions and in inhibiting more stereotyped mimicking, such as echolalia. A candidate for the neural basis of this disturbance may be found in a recently discovered class of neurons in frontal cortex, 'mirror neurons' (MNs). These neurons show activity in relation (...) both to specific actions performed by self and matching actions performed by others, providing a potential bridge between minds. MN systems exist in primates without imitative and ‘theory of mind’ abilities and we suggest that in order for them to have become utilized to perform social cognitive functions, sophisticated cortical neuronal systems have evolved in which MNs function as key elements. Early developmental failures of MN systems are likely to result in a consequent cascade of developmental impairments characterised by the clinical syndrome of autism. (shrink)
Summary Ideomotor apraxia is a cognitive disorder in which the patient loses the ability to accurately perform learned, skilled actions. This is despite normal limb power and coordination. It has long been known that left supramarginal gyrus lesions cause bilateral upper limb apraxia and it was proposed that this area stored a visualkinaesthetic image of the skilled action, which was translated elsewhere in the brain into the pre-requisite movement formula. We hypothesise that, rather than these two functions occurring separately, both (...) are complementary functions of chains of ‘‘mirror neurons’’ within the left inferior parietal lobe. We go on to propose that this neural mechanism in the supramarginal gyrus and its projection zones, which originally evolved to allow the creation of a direct map between vision and movement, was subsequently exapted to allow other sorts of cross-domain mapping and in particular those sorts of abstract re-conceptualisation, such as metaphor, that make mankind unique. (shrink)
As presently implemented, the neuron doctrine (ND) portrays the brain's neurons and chemical synapses as fundamental components in a computer-like switching circuit, supporting a view of brain = mind = computer. However, close examination reveals individual neurons to be far more complex than simple switches, with enormous capacity for intracellular information processing (e.g., in the internal cytoskeleton). Other poorly appreciated factors (gap junctions, apparent randomness, dendritic-dendritic processing, possible quantum computation, the living state) also suggest that the ND grossly (...) oversimplifies neuronal functions. In the quest to understand consciousness, the presently implemented ND may throw out the baby with the bath water. (shrink)
It has been shown that visual awareness in the blind hemifield of hemianopic cats that have undergone unilateral ablations of visual cortex can be restored by sectioning the commissure of the superior colliculus or by destroying a portion of the substantia nigra contralateral to the cortical lesion (the Sprague effect). We propose that the visual awareness that is recovered is due to synchronized oscillatory activities in the superior colliculus ipsilateral to the cortical lesion. These oscillatory activities are normally partially suppressed (...) by the inhibitory, GABAergic contralateral nigrotectal projection, and the destruction of the substantia nigra, or the sectioning of the collicular commissure, disinhibits the collicular neurons, causing an increase in the extent of oscillatory activity and/or synchronization between activities at different sites. This increase in the oscillatory and synchronized character is sufficient for the activities to give rise to visual awareness. We argue that in rodents and lower vertebrates, normal visual awareness is partly due to synchronized oscillatory activities in the optic tectum and partly due to similar activities in visual cortex. It is only in carnivores and primates that visual awareness is wholly due to cortical activities. Based on von Baerian recapitulation theory, we propose that, even in humans, there is a period in early infancy when visual awareness is partially due to activities in the superior colliculus, but that this awareness gradually disappears as the nigrotectal projection matures. (shrink)
Falk's hominin mother-infant model presupposes an emerging infant capacity to perceive and learn from afforded gestures and vocalizations. Unlike back-riding offspring of other primates, who were in no need to decenter their own body-centered perspective, a mirror neurons system may have been adapted in hominin infants to subserve the kind of (m)other-centered mirroring we now see manifested by human infants soon after birth.
A formal neuron has been studied mathematically. The spiking behaviour of a single neuron has been considered and the influence of the other neurons has been replaced by an average activity level. Four different kinds of spiking behaviour are predicted by the model: B (bursts), C (continuous), P (periodic) and S (silent) neurons and several real neurons can be classified within these four categories. Some properties of the spiking neuron are calculated: 1) the time between spikes, 2) (...) the spike train length and 3) the silent time. Because these magnitudes can be measured in the laboratory, an experimental validation of the model is proposed. (shrink)
The widely touted discovery of mirror neurons has generated intense scientific interest in the neurobiology of intersubjectivity. Social neuroscientists have claimed that mirror neurons, located in brain regions associated with motor action, facial recognition, and somatosensory processing, allow us to automatically grasp other people's intentions and emotions. Despite controversies, mirror neuron research is animating materialist, affective, and embodied accounts of intersubjectivity. My view is that mirror neurons raise issues that are directly relevant to feminism and cultural studies, (...) but interventions are needed for the work to be compatible with nonreductionist critical thought. In this article I critique the dominant neuroscientific account of mirror neurons, called embodied simulation theory. I draw from feminist epistemologies as well as alternative interpretations of mirror neurons in cognitive science and philosophy of mind to consider mirroring as situated, embodied perception. (shrink)
Mirror neurons fire both when a primate executes a transitive action directed toward a target (e.g., grasping) and when he observes the same action performed by another. According to the prevalent interpretation, action-mirroring is a process of interpersonal neural similarity whereby an observer maps the agent's perceived movements onto her own motor repertoire. Furthermore, ever since Gallese and Goldman's (1998) influential paper, action-mirroring has been linked to third-person mindreading on the grounds that it enables an observer to represent the (...) agent's intention. In this paper, I criticize the prevalent interpretation on two grounds. First, action-mirroring could not result in interpersonal neural similarity unless there was a single mechanism active at different times in a single brain during the execution and the perception of acts of grasping. Second, such a neural mechanism is better conceived as underlying the possession of the concept of grasping than as a basis for mindreading. (shrink)
Rings of delay-coupled neurons possess a striking capability to produce various stable spiking patterns. In order to reveal the mechanisms of their appearance, we present a bifurcation analysis of the Hodgkin–Huxley (HH) system with delayed feedback as well as a closed loop of HH neurons. We consider mainly the effects of external currents and communication delays. It is shown that typically periodic patterns of different spatial form (wavenumber) appear via Hopf bifurcations as the external current or time delay (...) changes. The Hopf bifurcations are shown to occur in relatively narrow regions of the external current values, which are independent of the delays. Additional patterns, which have the same wavenumbers as the existing ones, appear via saddle–node bifurcations of limit cycles. The obtained bifurcation diagrams are evidence for the important role of communication delays for the emergence of multiple coexistent spiking patterns. The effects of a short-cut, which destroys the rotational symmetry of the ring, are also briefly discussed. (shrink)
The superior colliculus (SC) integrates information from multiple sensory modalities to facilitate the detection and localization of salient events. The efficacy of “multisensory integration” is traditionally measured by comparing the magnitude of the response elicited by a cross-modal stimulus to the responses elicited by its modality-specific component stimuli, and because there is an element of randomness in the system, these calculations are made using response values averaged over multiple stimulus presentations in an experiment. Recent evidence suggests that multisensory integration in (...) the SC is highly plastic and these neurons adapt to specific anomalous stimulus configurations. This raises the question whether such adaptation occurs during an experiment with traditional stimulus configurations; that is, whether the state of the neuron and its integrative principles are the same at the beginning and end of the experiment, or whether they are altered as a consequence of exposure to the testing stimuli even when they are pseudo-randomly interleaved. We find that unisensory and multisensory responses do change during an experiment, and these changes are predictable. Responses that are initially weak tend to potentiate, responses that are initially strong tend to habituate, and the efficacy of multisensory integration waxes or wanes accordingly during the experiment as predicted by the “principle of inverse effectiveness”. These changes are presumed to reflect two competing mechanisms in the SC: potentiation reflecting increases in the expectation that a stimulus will occur at a given location, habituation reflecting decreases in stimulus novelty. These findings indicate plasticity in multisensory integration that allows animals to adapt to rapidly changing environmental events while suggesting important caveats in the interpretation of experimental data: the neuron studied at the beginning of an experiment is not the same at the end of it. (shrink)
A tendency of auditory cortical neurons to respond at the beginning of major transitions in sounds rather than providing a continuously updated spectral-temporal profile may impede the generation of combination-sensitivity for certain classes of stimuli. Potential consequences of the cortical encoding of voiced stop-consonants on representational principles derived from orderly output constraints are discussed.
This article presents two different phenomenological paths leading from ego to alter ego: a Husserlian and a Merleau-Pontian way of thinking. These two phenomenological paths serve to disentangle the conceptual–philosophical underpinning of the mirror neurons system hypothesis, in which both ways of thinking are entwined. A Merleau-Pontian re-reading of the mirror neurons system theory is proposed, in which the characteristics of mirror neurons are effectively used in the explanation of action understanding and imitation. This proposal uncovers the (...) remaining necessary presupposition of a minimalized version of the Husserlian concept of pairing and its recent and improved version in terms of the intermodal system. This leads to a layered approach to the constitution of intersubjectivity. (shrink)
Introduction: New approaches to knotty old problems -- Avoiding Cartesian materialism -- From causal reductionism to self-directed systems -- From mindless to intelligent action -- How can neural nets mean? -- How does reason get its grip on the brain? -- Who's responsible? -- Neurobiological reductionism and free will.
Questions concerning the nature of representation and what representations are about have been a staple of Western philosophy since Aristotle. Recently, these same questions have begun to concern neuroscientists, who have developed new techniques and theories for understanding how the locus of neurobiological representation, the brain, operates. My dissertation draws on philosophy and neuroscience to develop a novel theory of representational content.
All complex systems are complex, but some are more complex than others are. Biological systems are generally more complex than physical systems. How do biologists tackle complex systems? In this talk, we will consider two biological systems, the genome and the brain. Scientists know much about them, but much more remains unknown. Ignorance breeds philosophical speculation. Reductionism makes a strong showing here, as it does in other frontier sciences where large gaps remain in our understanding. I will show that reductionism (...) and its claims have no bases in actual scientific research and results. The Human Genome Project will serve as a case in point.. (shrink)
What is consciousness? Conventional approaches see it as an emergent property of complex interactions among individual neurons; however these approaches fail to address enigmatic features of consciousness. Accordingly, some philosophers have contended that "qualia," or an experiential medium from which consciousness is derived, exists as a fundamental component of reality. Whitehead, for example, described the universe as being composed of "occasions of experience." To examine this possibility scientifically, the very nature of physical reality must be re-examined. We must come (...) to terms with the physics of spacetime-as described by Einstein's general theory of relativity, and its relation to the fundamental theory of matter-as described by quantum theory. Roger Penrose has proposed a new physics of objective reduction: "OR," which appeals to a form of quantum gravity to provide a useful description of fundamental processes at the quantum/classical borderline.hz Within the OR scheme, we consider that consciousness occurs if an appropriately organized system is able to develop and maintain quantum coherent superposition until a specific "objective" criterion (a threshold related to quantum gravity) is reached; the coherent system then self-reduces (objective reduction: OR). We contend that this type of objective self-collapse introduces non-computability, an essential feature of consciousness which distinguishes our minds from classical computers. Each OR is taken as an instantaneous event-the climax of a self-organizing process in fundamental spacetime-and a candidate for a conscious Whitehead "occasion of experience." How could an OR process occur in the brain, be coupled to neural activities, and account for other features of consciousness? We nominate a quantum computational OR process with the requisite characteristics to be occurring in cytoskeletal microtubules within the brain's neurons. In this model, quantum-superposed states develop in microtubule subunit proteins ("tubulins") within certain brain neurons, remain coherent, and recruit more superposed tubulins until a mass-time-energy threshold (related to quantum gravity) is reached.. (shrink)
Mirror neurons and systems are often appealed to as mechanisms enabling mindreading, i.e., understanding other people’s mental states. Such neural mirroring processes are often treated as instances of mental simulation rather than folk psychological theorizing. I will call into question this assumed connection between mirroring and simulation, arguing that mirroring does not necessarily constitute mental simulation as specified by the simulation theory of mindreading. I begin by more precisely characterizing “mirroring” (Sect. 2) and “simulation” (Sect. 3). Mirroring results in (...) a neural process in an observer that resembles a neural process of the same type in the observed agent. Although simulation is often characterized in terms of resemblance (Goldman, Simulating minds: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of mindreading, 2006), I argue that simulation requires more than mere interpersonal mental resemblance: A simulation must have the purpose or function of resembling its target (Sect. 3.1). Given that mirroring processes are generated automatically, I focus on what is required for a simulation to possess the function of resembling its target. In Sect. 3.2 I argue that this resemblance function, at least in the case of simulation-based mindreading, requires that a simulation serve as a representation or stand-in of what it resembles. With this revised account of simulation in hand, in Sect. 4 I show that the mirroring processes do not necessarily possess the representational function required of simulation. To do so I describe an account of goal attribution involving a motor mirroring process that should not be characterized as interpersonal mental simulation. I end in Sect. 5 by defending the conceptual distinction between mirroring and simulation, and discussing the implications of this argument for the kind of neuroscientific evidence required by simulation theory. (shrink)
Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi have recently argued against a simulationist interpretation of neural resonance. Recognizing intentions and emotions in the facial expressions and gestures of others may be subserved by e.g. mirror neuron activity, but this does not mean that we first experience an intention or emotion and then project it onto the other. Mirror neurons subserve social cognition, according to Gallagher and Zahavi, by being integral parts of processes of enactive social perception. I argue that the notion (...) of enactive social perception does not yet explain why social perception is subserved by mirroring. I also argue that this problem cannot be avoided by means of an appeal to multiple realization. Instead, I propose a holistic model of neural resonance-based social cognition that does give an explanatory role to mirroring by allowing for a partial experiential overlap between experiencing and recognizing emotions and intentions. This account avoids the simulationist step-wise conception of social cognition and recognizes the qualitative difference between first- and third-person emotion and intention attribution. It does capture too much of the simulationist intuitions, however, to warrant the label ‘social perception’. (shrink)
Recent literature on the role of pictorial representation in the life sciences has focused on the relationship between detailed representations of empirical data and more abstract, formal representations of theory. The standard argument is that in both a historical and epistemic sense, this relationship is a directional one: beginning with raw, unmediated images and moving towards diagrams that are more interpreted and more theoretically rich. Using the neural network diagrams of Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts as a case study, I (...) argue that while in the empirical sciences, pictorial representation tends to move from data to theory, in areas of the life sciences that are predominantly theoretical, when abstraction occurs at the outset, the relationship between detail and abstraction in pictorial representations can be of a different character. (shrink)
In the Western aesthetic canon, the still life enjoys a certain prestige; its place in the museum and on the pages of the art history text is secure. Art aficionados who appreciate the character of Cezanne's apples help to ensure the lofty standing of the still life, as do students who admire the dewdrops still glistening on flowers picked and painted in the nineteenth century. For some students, however, it is difficult to understand such veneration. Despite the coaxing of dedicated (...) art or museum educators, these students find apples nestled among drapery folds or translucent petals in a spring bouquet to be "boring." No matter how compelling the apples, how exquisitely rendered the blossoms, the still life is .. (shrink)