THE POLITICS OF EMPATHY

Did you know that Dr. Giacomo Rizzolatti of the University of Parma discovered a group of cells in the frontal brain that fires whenever you perform a gesture or specific action? The kicker is -– they also become activated when you watch someone else performing the same task!

Dr. Ramachandran, the Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and professor with the Psychology Department at the University of California, San Diego, has hypothesized that these neurons may hold the key to our understanding a myriad of communication tasks. He writes in his essay on Mirror Neurons:


With knowledge of these neurons, you have the basis for understanding a host of very enigmatic aspects of the human mind: "mind reading" empathy, imitation learning, and even the evolution of language. Anytime you watch someone else doing something (or even starting to do something), the corresponding mirror neuron might fire in your brain, thereby allowing you to "read" and understand another's intentions, and thus to develop a sophisticated "theory of other minds." (I suggest, also, that a loss of these mirror neurons may explain autism as— a cruel disease that afflicts children. Without these neurons the child can no longer understand or empathize with other people emotionally and therefore completely withdraws from the world socially.)



These mirror neurons are important, because it appears they may be the reason we are able to recognize, imitate and understand each other'’s intentions at an emotional level. Wow!

This finding might explain why you are so passionate about watching your favorite sport team. How? Because you are virtually on the field of competition performing great feats of daring do, just like your heroes. At least your brain thinks so!

Well, if this miraculous finding can explain your passion for sports, what other passions may these cells make possible? Could this be the reason for the mirroring gestures of lovers often seen in human courtship? Or even the ability of the shaman to divine the medicinal properties of herbs by mirror cell mediated mystical communication?

The journal Cognitive Brain Research recently published a study of autistic children - famous for exhibiting non-bonding, non-interactive behavior- and the function of their mirror neurons and came to the following conclusion:

"The findings provide evidence that individuals with autism have a dysfunctional mirror neuron system, which may contribute to many of their impairments -- especially those that involve comprehending and responding appropriately to others' behavior..."


Could these cells be the processor for empathy in the human brain and the reason we are able to "‘walk a mile in someone else'’s shoes"’?

I'’ve got an idea for an interesting study. Let'’s hook all the Liberals up to MRIs whenever they drone on about diversity, gender equality, affirmative action and political correctness to see if their mirror neurons are firing. I bet you 10 to 1 the results won'’t reflect well on their motives.



NOVA VIDEO: MIRROR NEURONS

RELATED:
MIRROR NEURONS and imitation learning as the driving force behind "the great leap forward" in human evolution
Wikipedia: Mirror Neurons
Michael Arbib: The Mirror System Hypothesis. Linking Language to Theory of Mind

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