Mirror Mirror

January 6, 2013 |  by

When we see, we do (just like monkeys). When we hear, we learn to speak. And when others feel (whether sadness, love, lust or hate), we often feel what they feel—we empathize. In all, social interaction is a form of imitation.

Mirror neurons, discovered by Italian researcher Giacomo Rizzolatti in 1992, play a role in this. Rizzolatti and others found the same part of the brain is active when we watch others perform an action as when we do it ourselves. Likewise, the same brain regions are triggered when we feel an emotion as when we see another person experiencing the emotion. In short, we are wired to imitate.

What’s the tie-in with memes?

Imitation is the cornerstone of groups. In a group—with help from our mirror neurons—we act, think or empathize in common with the group. In fact, another word for imitation is mimesis (“to imitate” in Greek), the root word for meme.

Mirror neurons are the biology of memes.

 

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