Mirroring versus simulation: on the representational function of simulation

Synthese 189 (3):483-513 (2012)

Authors
Mitchell Herschbach
California State University, Northridge
Abstract
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.
Keywords Mirror neurons  Mirror systems  Mindreading  Simulation theory  Functional analysis  Representation
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11229-011-9969-6
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 39,024
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

View all 27 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Mirroring, Simulating and Mindreading.Alvin I. Goldman - 2009 - Mind and Language 24 (2):235-252.
Simulation Trouble.Shaun Gallagher - 2007 - Social Neuroscience 2 (3-4):353–365.
Does Simulation Theory Really Involve Simulation?Justin C. Fisher - 2006 - Philosophical Psychology 19 (4):417 – 432.
Mirror Systems and Simulation: A Neo-Empiricist Interpretation. [REVIEW]John Michael - 2012 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 11 (4):565-582.
What is so Special About Embodied Simulation?Vittorio Gallese & Corrado Sinigaglia - 2011 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15 (11):512-519.
If Mirror Neurons Are the Answer, What Was the Question?Emma Borg - 2007 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (8):5-19.
Analog Simulation.Russell Trenholme - 1994 - Philosophy of Science 61 (1):115-131.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2011-07-02

Total views
112 ( #61,409 of 2,320,206 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #353,283 of 2,320,206 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature