L13 - Mirror Neurons and Social Neuroscience Flashcards Preview

PSYC1020 - Introduction to Psychology - Minds, Brains and Behaviour > L13 - Mirror Neurons and Social Neuroscience > Flashcards

Flashcards in L13 - Mirror Neurons and Social Neuroscience Deck (6):

Mirror Neurons:

Neurons that fire both when performing an action and when observing someone else perform the same action

  • "Mirrors" the brain state of the other in the observer’s own brain
  • Can mirror actions, emotion or empathy
  • Unknown if mirror neurons are innate or learned by association and experience
  • Natural tendency to imitate the actions of others:
    • Associative learning
    • Social bonding (Chameleon effect) & group association
    • Understanding others
  • Yawn contagion: People rated as more empathic are more susceptible to contagious yawning


Direct matching hypothesis:

Automatically maps observed actions to the motor system

  • We understand actions when we map the visual representation of the observed action onto our motor representation of the same action
  • TMS used to stimulate PMC
    • Motor evoked potentials: Muscle twitches in hand measured with EMG
    • Primary motor cortex activity increases just by watching others’ actions


Interference (automatic imitation) effects:

  • Observing others’ actions can interfere with our own
  • Suggests that observed actions are automatically mapped to motor cortex and thus can interfere with motor cortex activity executing our own actions


Understanding others:

Simulation theory: We understand others’ mental and emotional states and intentions by simulating their state in our own mind (i.e. "Putting yourself in their shoes")

Rational evaluation theory: Rational evaluation of others’ situation, based on knowledge from past experience


Origins of Mirror Neurons: Innate vs Associative/Experience Learning:

  • Infants seem to have mirror neurons but arguable if they are innate
  • Associative learning: Having intentions/goals → Making actions to achieve goals → Receiving sensory feedback from those actions to achieve goals
  • Hebbian Learning (type of long-term potentiation):
    • Repeated firing of pre-synaptic and post-synaptic neuron at the same time strengthens synaptic connection
    • Brain “learns” associations through repeated pairings which strengthens connections between paired stimuli or events
  • Mirror neurons form associations between observed and experienced states


Neural Empathy:

Feeling other's emotion

Brain activity when experiencing emotion, similar when observing others’ emotions

Feeling other's pain

Brain activation for experienced pain compared with empathetic pain

Group association

We form associations with people we perceive as like-us. Neural empathy and mirroring depends on group association (stronger for in-group)

Social identity theory: In-group vs. out-group

  • In-group: Favouritism, conformity, helping
  • Out-group: prejudice, discrimination, conflict

Experience (racial bias)

Mirroring processes for empathy change with experience