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The mirror neuron paradox: How far is understanding from mimicking?

Listed author(s):
  • Khalil, Elias L.

The same mirror neuron system (MNS) is behind both understanding and mimicking. Mirroring per se is the spectator's simulation of the emotion/action of the principal. While the understanding process usually involves the attenuation of original emotions, the mimicking process often leads to escalation and mob psychology. What is paradoxical is how the same primitive, mirroring, gives rise to divergent processes. To solve the paradox, this paper distinguishes between two kinds of evaluations: rationality and niyya. The rationality axis evaluates whether the action is proper (rational) or improper (irrational), while the niyya (an Arabic word for "faith" or "trustworthiness") axis evaluates whether the motive is virtuous (wellbeing-supporting) or malicious (wellbeing-threatening). The interplay of the two-axes promises also to explain the differences among four kinds of fellow-feeling.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 77 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 86-96

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:77:y:2011:i:1:p:86-96
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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  1. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869.
  2. Elias L. Khalil, 2002. "Is Adam Smith Liberal?," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 158(4), pages 664-664, December.
  3. Khalil, Elias L., 2004. "What is altruism? A reply to critics," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 141-143, February.
  4. Elias L. Khalil, 2005. "An anatomy of authority: Adam Smith as political theorist," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(1), pages 57-71, January.
  5. Khalil, Elias L., 2004. "What is altruism?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 97-123, February.
  6. Jean-Pierre Dupuy, 2004. "Intersubjectivity and Embodiment," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 275-294, 09.
  7. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  8. Rustichini, Aldo, 2005. "Neuroeconomics: Present and future," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 201-212, August.
  9. Leonardo Fogassi, 2010. "The mirror neuron system: How cognitive functions emerge from motor organization," Post-Print hal-00921186, HAL.
  10. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
  11. Khalil, Elias L., 1996. "Respect, admiration, aggrandizement: Adam Smith as economic psychologist," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 555-577, November.
  12. Elias L. Khalil, 1997. "The Red Queen Paradox: A Proper Name for a Popular Game - Note," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 153(2), pages 411-415, June.
  13. Philippe Fontaine, 2001. "The Changing Place of Empathy in Welfare Economics," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 33(3), pages 387-410, Fall.
  14. Khalil, Elias L., 1990. "Beyond Self-Interest and Altruism: A Reconstruction of Adam Smith's Theory of Human Conduct," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(02), pages 255-273, October.
  15. Elias L. Khalil, 2010. "Adam Smith'S Concept Of Self-Command As A Solution To Dynamic Inconsistency And The Commitment Problem," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(1), pages 177-191, 01.
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