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Mirror neurons as a conceptual mechanism?


  • Cristina Meini


  • Alfredo Paternoster



The functional role of mirror neurons has been assessed in many different ways. They have been regarded, inter alia, as the core mechanism of mind reading, the mechanism of language understanding, the mechanism of imitation. In this paper we will discuss the thesis according to which MNs are a conceptual mechanism. This hypothesis is attractive since it could accommodate in an apparently simple way all the above-mentioned interpretations. We shall take into consideration some reasons suggesting the conceptualist characterization of MNs, as well as some possible replies. We shall figure out how an argument for the conceptualist hypothesis could be deployed, focusing on the notion of off-line processes, which turns out to be the crucial (and maybe problematic for mirror processes) property necessary to ascribe concept possession. Our conclusion will be that, despite of there being some evidence for the conceptualist account, the issue cannot be definitely settled, because there are both experimental shortages and conceptual difficulties. In particular, there are (at least) three distinct senses in which MNs can be regarded as a conceptual mechanism, but we shall argue that only one of these interpretations can be defended. Copyright Springer-Verlag 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Cristina Meini & Alfredo Paternoster, 2012. "Mirror neurons as a conceptual mechanism?," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 11(2), pages 183-201, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:minsoc:v:11:y:2012:i:2:p:183-201
    DOI: 10.1007/s11299-012-0106-0

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