Crazy Social Whirl?

Posted by on Nov 10, 2007 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Just re-reading the Rizzolatti paper on mirror neurons and empathy I linked to yesterday.

Here’s what the open para of the synopsis says:

“Humans are an exquisitely social species. Our survival and success depend criti-
cally on our ability to thrive in complex social situations. But how do we under-
stand others? Which are the mechanisms underlying this capacity?”

They cite Adam Smith – the great hero of the individualist tendency – on the fact that we seem deeply connected to and affected by each other and describe eloquently how they believe mirror neurons provide the physical underpinning of this connection. They – neuroscientists both – have a simple and very Herd view of our like pink-pawed species:

“Humans are social beings. They spend a large part of their time observing others
and trying to understand what they are doing and why”

Unlike those terrible neuromarketing vendors, these two understand the context within which we need to understand brain function – other people…

Go on, put you feet up and have a read.


  1. Asi
    November 12, 2007

    The one who wrote the most on this subject and even anticipated the discovery of mirror-neurons was G.H Mead, with his concept of “Taking the Perspective of the Other”.
    Mead’s key philosophical venture concerned the social dimension of
    consciousness and human conduct. His endeavour is to show that the mind and the
    self are without residue social emergents. Mead’s ambition was to trace the mechanisms by which the mind and the self emerge out of relationships between individuals and their (social) environment. He wished to “emphasise the temporal and logical pre-existence of the social process to the self- conscious individual that arises within it” (1934; p.186).
    His critical scrutiny of the social aspect of human conduct is founded on, and rooted in the mechanism of ‘taking the role of the other’, which serves as a key explanatory concept for all of his further inquiries, from the emergence of self conception, to ethics and the ordered society.
    The significance of the concept of ‘taking the role of the other’ is to be found in almost every aspect of Mead’s writings, be that his philosophy, social psychology or ethical theory.
    So if you haven’t read “Self, Mind and Society” I cannot recommend it enough!

  2. mark Earls
    November 14, 2007

    Thanks, Asi. Spot on, but I’ve got to admit that GHM had slipped from my memory banks entirely. 25 years or so ago is another matter…
    Digging through boxes in the attic to see if I still have my undergrad copy…