The Mirror Neuron System and Imitation

Marco Iacoboni

in The Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780195342161
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The Mirror Neuron System and Imitation

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Social Psychology



Imitation is a pervasive behavior in humans that is central to learning and transmission of culture. Imitation seems also a ‘facilitator’ in many social encounters, helping not only the synchronization of body postures, gestures, voices and facial expressions, but also seemingly increasing liking between people. Some have suggested that imitation is some sort of ‘social glue.’ The complexity of imitative behavior, however, has not traditionally inspired the study of its neural correlates. A big impetus to the study of the neural mechanisms of imitation has been recently provided both by the growth of social cognitive neuroscience as a field and by single cell recordings in the monkey brain. This chapter discusses these recordings in detail, which have revealed the existence of some neurons that have physiological properties that seem ideal for imitation.

Keywords: imitation; neuron system; monkeys; brain; mirror neurons

Article.  6657 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Social Psychology

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