From actions to empathy and morality - A neural perspective
AbstractOur culturally varied, complex social world, governed by unwritten moral codes that encourage affiliative helping behavior, may be subserved by the unique properties of a neural system for understanding the intentions and actions of others. The firing pattern of neurons within this system appears to 'mirror' an action performed and seen, coding a functional correspondence between a motor action and sensory perception of that action. Indirect evidence acquired through various neuroimaging techniques supports the presence of such a neural system, termed the mirror neuron system (MNS) in the human brain. In this paper I discuss evidence suggesting that the human MNS - by linking intention and outcome, perception and action, observer and actor - forms part of the neural system for empathic concern, the capacity to understand and feel another's emotional state. By helping to establish a 'likeness' between interacting agents, the human MNS may support the active desire to understand others, to feel what they are feeling and to help alleviate another's suffering. By providing a biological substrate for such fundamental affiliative behaviors, the MNS may provide a neural scaffold for the evolution of our sophisticated sociality and the morality that governs it.
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Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.
Volume (Year): 77 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo
Mirror neuron system Limbic system Emotion Empathy Morality Neuroimaging;
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