Mirror neurons and social cognition

Giacomo Rizzolatti and Leonardo Fogassi

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Mirror neurons and social cognition

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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In spite of great progress in neuroscience over the last decade, it would be excessive to claim that neurophysiology can offer a scientific account of social cognition. However, there is little doubt that the discovery of mirror neurons represents an important step towards providing a biological substrate for some of the basic phenomena on which social cognition is built. This article gives a general overview of the properties of mirror neurons, discusses the basic functional role of the mirror neuron system, and examines which cognitive functions are built on top of it. Mirror neurons are a specific set of motor neurons first discovered in area F5 (a part of the ventral premotor cortex) of the macaque monkey. F5 neurons discharge in association with active monkey movements. Some F5 neurons are merely motor neurons. Others also respond to visual stimuli (visuomotor neurons).

Keywords: neuroscience; neurophysiology; social cognition; mirror neurons; substrate; phenomena; cognitive functions; F5 neurons

Article.  10081 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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