Emiliano Loria
University of Genoa
In the last decades neuroscience provided so many important contributions to philosophy of mind that nowadays the latter is inconceivable without the former in every topic this philosophical branch deals with. The studies connected to action understanding provided great advances in the field of developmental psychology for what concerns social learning abilities grounded on imitation. All information received by the infants are transmitted through actions. It would be impossible to conceive infant imitation without action interpretation. According to Meltzoff’s “like-me” hypothesis, imitation is possible in human infants already at birth in virtue of an identification mechanism with the adults supported by mirror neurons (MNs) based simulation system. However, if we split the types of actions into two general categories, instrumental and communicative actions, we will see, according to an alternative account, how infants modulate differently the comprehension of observed scenarios, depending on whether they are passive observers (in the case of instrumental actions) or actively involved (in the case of communicative actions). Such a recognition of action features seems to be evident through different degrees of motor activation, as ERP techniques applied to infants and young adults revealed. Neuroscientific evidence highlight the crucial role of brain areas connected to motor activation for action interpretation, but at the same time, they allow both a bottom-up process and a top-down process interpretation whereby the motor activation is seen as a product of action understanding rather than its determining causal factor. The aim of the present study is to examine such epistemological conflicting perspectives underlying action interpretation, and their repercussions on different social learning theories.
Keywords infant social learning  mirror neurons  action understanding
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