Marco Iacoboni
Mirroring People

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 2008


91 The fact that the major language area of the human brain is also critical area for imitation and contains mirror neurons offers a new view of language and cognition in general.
By the 1940s, say, cognitive science had become
dominated by the idea that the operations of the human mind that generate language and higher cognitive functions are akin to the operations of a computer, manipulating abstract symbols on the basis of specific rules and complications. According to this view, mental operations are largely detached from the workings of the body, with the body a mere output device for commands generated by the manipulation of abstract symbols in the mind. That idea - the human mind as something quite like a computer - held sway for about half a century.
Now a different view has become more and more popular. According to this alternative, our mental processes are shaped by our bodies and by the types of perceptual and motor experiences that are the product of their movement through and interaction with the surrounding world. This view is generally called embodied cognition, and the version of this theory especially dedicated to language is known as embodied semantics. The discovery of mirror neurons has strongly reinforced this hypothesis that cognition and language are embodied.
92 The main idea of embodied semantics is that linguistic concepts are built „bottom up“ by using the sensori-motor representations necessary to enact those concepts…when we talk, we often use expressions involving actions and body parts: kicking off the year, grasping a concept, can you give me a hand, that cost an arm and a leg, and probably hundreds more. According to the embodied semantic a hypothesis, when we say, hear, or read these expressions, we actually activate the motor areas of our brain concerned with the actions performed with those body parts..
209 The discovery of Mirror Neurons:...the implications of the discovery of far-reaching, not only for our understanding of imitative violence and possible decisions to address it, but even in philosophical terms.
Many long cherished notions about human autonomy are clearly threatened by the neuroscientific scrutiny of the biological roots of human behaviour. Our notion of free will is fundamental to our worldview, yet the more we learn about mirror neurons, the more
we realise that we are not rational, free acting agents in the world. Mirror neurons in our brains produce automatic imitative influences of which we are often unaware and that limit our autonomy by means of powerful social influences. We humans are social animals, yet our sociality makes us social agents with limited autonomy


Cognitive linguistics
Cognitive semantics
Mirror neurons
Metaphor: George Lakoff - Jerome Feldman
Imitation
Empathy



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