Mirror Neurons

Life, Cognition by Adam on 2006-05-27 01:52

Recent discoveries in the realm of empathy (”mirror neurons” is the new catch-phrase) reveal just how deeply we are affected by the mental states of those around us. This article uses that evidence to support the argument that we should therefore make efforts to surround ourselves with people who we want to be like.

“Spend time with a nervous, anxious person and physiological monitoring would most likely show you mimicking the anxiety and nervousness, in ways that affect your brain and body in a concrete, measurable way. Find yourself in a room full of pissed off people and feel the smile slide right off your face. [..] The behavior of others we’re around is nearly irresistible.

When we’re consciously aware and diligent, we can fight this. But the stress of maintaining that conscious struggle against an unconscious, ancient process is a non-stop stressful drain on our mental, emotional, and physical bandwidth. [..]

Regarding the effect of mirror neurons and emotional contagion on personal performance, neurologist Richard Restak offers this advice:

‘If you want to accomplish something that demands determination and endurance, try to surround yourself with people possessing these qualities. And try to limit the time you spend with people given to pessimism and expressions of futility. Unfortunately, negative emotions exert a more powerful effect in social situations than positive ones, thanks to the phenomena of emotional contagion.’”

7 comments per 'Mirror Neurons'

  1. Cat says:

    Just from my own experience, I can definitely see that. My life began an interesting transformation when I started hanging out with happy people who spend their time trying to turn what they want into reality, instead of around insecure people who complain about life, lack of drive, and having any goals. I would see some of the OrangeKids about once a month, which picked up my mood long enough to keep me plodding along. Then, I joined my school’s Sex & Relationships Peer Health Internship, and was surrounded on a weekly basis by positive and sensitive indivudals with similar goals, ideas, and a whole lot of passion.

    And by strange coincidence, I was just thinking of a very negative situation regarding a friend of mine, and whether it makes sense to simply let myself be distanced from the situation for my own emotional health.

  2. Rand says:

    Check out some of the recent work by Antonio Damasio for some great discussion of “mirror neurons” and their function in the construction of the sense of self (mind) from the CNS. It’s a nice step in the direction of finally ending the dualism debate that has been littering cognitive science with distraction for centuries.

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