Mirror neuron

The function of the mirror system in humans is a subject of much speculation. Some researchers in cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology consider that this system provides the physiological mechanism for the perception/action coupling (see the common coding theory).[3] They argue that mirror neurons may be important for understanding the actions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation. Some researchers speculate that mirror systems may simulate observed actions, and thus contribute to theory of mind skills,[7][8] while others relate mirror neurons to language abilities.[9] Neuroscientists such as Marco Iacoboni (UCLA) have argued that mirror neuron systems in the human brain help us understand the actions and intentions of other people. In a study published in March 2005 Iacoboni and his colleagues reported that mirror neurons could discern whether another person who was picking up a cup of tea planned to drink from it or clear it from the table.[10] In addition, Iacoboni has argued that mirror neurons are the neural basis of the human capacity for emotions such as empathy.[11]

.. They found that some of the neurons they recorded from would respond when the monkey saw a person pick up a piece of food as well as when the monkey picked up the food. The discovery was initially sent to Nature but was rejected for its “lack of general interest,” before being published in a less competitive journal.[19]

René Girard’s theories still explain the violence all around us

René Girard, the French-born scholar who died late last year, spent his career trying to understand what makes violence a chronic problem of human societies. While we might assume that violence stems from having vastly different points of view, Girard’s central insight is that violence actually grows from similarity.

His explanation, in a word, is imitation. Out of this insight, Girard spun a theory comprehending literature and religion, anthropology and international relations.

“When the whole world is globalized,” Girard said, “you’re going to be able to set fire to the whole thing with a single match.”

.. The book claimed that all the great novelists — in a tradition running from Cervantes through Dostoevsky to Proust — had made the same discovery: human beings, contrary to romantic myth, have no “authentic” core, no deep source of original, self-invented desire.

Our desires are borrowed from one another: I will desire what my models desire.

.. Girard took the final step in the construction of his theory in 1978 with the publication of a book named after a New Testament verse in which Jesus said he will reveal Things Hidden From the Foundation of the World. Its central argument is that Christianity completes what has already begun in the Hebrew Scriptures: the unveiling and disabling of the scapegoat mechanism on which all cultures had previously been based.