Puppeteering the Brain

January 28, 2011 |  by

More on mirror neurons. Researchers tested viewers’ reactions to a Clint Eastwood movie. Goleman writes in Social Intelligence:

“When the scene depicted some delicate hand movements, the brain region governing touch and movement engaged. And at scenes with maximal excitement – gunshots, explosions, surprising plot twists – the emotional centers roared into action. In short, the movies we watch commandeer our brains.

Members of an audience share this neural puppetry. Whatever happened in one viewer’s brain occurred in lockstep in the others, moment by moment throughout the film. The action onscreen choreographed the identical inner dance in everyone watching.”

We aren’t an “audience” only at the movies. Whenever sensory input hits us as a group, we’re an audience: shoppers in a store, readers of a magazine, gourmands at the bistro.

But there is hope:

“The one major exception to this puppetry is the high-road prefrontal areas, which house the brain’s executive centers and facilitate critical thinking.”

In other words, awareness.

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