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Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect with Others Hardcover – May 13, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0374210175 ISBN-10: 0374210179 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

How do we know what others are thinking and feeling? Why do we weep at movies? UCLA neuroscientist Iacoboni introduces readers to the world of mirror neurons and what they imply about human empathy, which, the author says, underlies morality. Mirror neurons allow us to interpret facial expressions of pain or joy and respond appropriately. Thanks to these neurons, Jacoboni writes, [w]e have empathy for... fictional characters—we know how they're feeling because the feeling is reproduced in us. Mirror neurons also help us learn by imitating, from newborns who instinctively copy facial gestures to adults learning a new skill. The author cites studies suggesting that when mirror neurons don't work properly, as in autism, encouraging imitative behavior, or social mirroring, can help. More ominously, Jacoboni sees mirror neurons as implicated in addiction and finds possible implications for how we react to consumer and even political ads. Iacoboni's expansive style and clear descriptions make for a solid introduction to cutting-edge neurobiology. (May 21)
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“A fascinating account of an unexpected discovery that is changing the way that psychologists and neuroscientists think about everything from language to social interaction.”   —Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Stumbling on Happiness
“Marco Iacoboni has written a fascinating and wonderfully accessible account of one of the most exciting developments in recent neuroscience—the discovery of ‘mirror neurons.’ If you want to know more about the biological basis of empathy, morality, social cognition and self-awareness, read this book.”   —Sam Harris, founder of The Reason Project and author of the New York Times best sellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
“Those of us who thirty years ago began to speculate about the social brain never guessed what riches were in store. Iacoboni's book is both a thrilling account of how research on mirror neurons is revolutionising our understanding of inter-subjectivity, and a passionate manifesto for what he calls ‘existential neuroscience.’ Mirroring People does for the story of mirror neurons what The Double Helix did for DNA.”   —Nicholas Humphrey, author of Seeing Red: A Study in Consciousness
“A superb introduction to one of the great discoveries of contemporary science: we come wired for empathy and cooperation, and evolution has equipped us to care, not just compete. Think of evolution as the survival of the most caring and best cared for. This is a book you must read.”   —George Lakoff, author of The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century Politics with an 18th-Century Brain
“This book vividly conveys the current excitement in the field of mirror neurons and it should provide a valuable antidote to "Neuron envy" - a widely prevalent syndrome in psychology. The author explores the broader implications of the research for understanding the neural basis of human nature.”   —V.S. Ramachandran, M.D., PhD,  Director, Center for brain and cognition, UCSD

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374210179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374210175
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

153 of 172 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Gregory on May 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book tells you a great deal about the people who study mirror neurons. You will learn, for example that Vittorio Gallese is one of twenty-seven members of an exclusive club in Parma in which each member personifies one of Giuseppi Verdi's twenty-seven operas. You will learn that in July 2006 Italy won the World Cup of soccer by defeating France on penalty kicks following a 1-1 tie. You will learn that the author's daughter, Caterina, is in the six grade, is studying ballet, and practices en pointe in the living room. You will learn that UCLA has a Chancellor's Fund for Academic Border Crossing specifically designed for interdisciplinary projects involving two professors from different disciplines mentoring a graduate student who wants to perform interdisciplinary work. If all this sounds fascinating, you will not be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you hoped to learn such things as to how the behavior of mirror neurons is consistent with neural network models, you may be disappointed. The author has a penchant for attributing human attributes to neurons and their workings (perhaps he never heard the admonition, "Don't anthropomorphize neurons; they hate it when you do that"); I found his blending of psychology and neuroscience disconcerting. The authors of the blurbs on the cover of the book clearly found a treasure trove that I somehow missed. I hope you will find similar treasures if you chose to read the book.
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66 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Historied on June 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I would rate this book six stars if I could. I read about 100 serious books a year and this is my top book for the year so far. It tells the fascinating story of the discovery of mirror neurons in a well structured narrative that is highly memorable. As someone who had been following this research at a distance for its implications for my own field, I would say that the author weaves the story wonderfully well around the diverse research teams that make up this expanding field. Each step of the research road becomes comprehensibly built on the previous step. The technology of fMRI etc is well explained at just the right point, as is the research design of each experiment but not drily but memorably. The editing of this book (or its author's skill) is formidable: yet it is a good read: a non-fiction page turner! The fundamental findings described are that certain motor neurons called mirror neurons in our brains fire not only when we act, but when we watch others act. We simulate others actions. This establishes a connection at the most automatic visceral level between people and allows us to attribute intentionality to others. The connections between mirror neurons and the limbic system mean that we can actually simulate what others are feeling. So we can do far more than merely take their perspective; we can actually experience their feelings. This begins to break down the idea of the atomistic individual and shows ways in which community and shared culture can bond us as a profoundly social species. It also provides a clear neural basis for the sense of self versus others. The book shows how this is mediated by super mirror neurons that inhibit the working of mirror neurons differentially if actions are being taken or merely being imitated.Read more ›
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Firat Soylu on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Since this is not a literature review on mirror neurons published in a neuroscience journal, it would be naive to expect a really in depth scientific text. Marco Iacoboni is a scientist who attempted to convey current research on mirror neurons to people who are not neuroscientists. This is important, since mirror neuron research have strong implications not only for cognitive science but also for every field which relates to cognition one way or the other. Iacoboni helps with understanding mirror neuron research program and its implication by providing a easy to read account of what has been done until now and what we may expect from future research.

Although Iacoboni does not get into the details of research conducted he refers to all of the important research on mirror neurons and beyond. In this sense, the content in this book is extensive but may be not be comprehensive enough to please a lazy neuroscientist who is looking for a comprehensive literature review instead of reading the original research manuscripts.

I certainly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an introduction to research on mirror neurons.
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39 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Russell A. Rohde MD on June 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Mirroring People: The New Concept of How We Connect with Others", by Marco Iacoboni, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0-374-21017-5, HC 272/308. Notes 23 pgs., Index 13 pgs., & several illus., 8 ½" x 5 ¾".

A short book, written by neurologist Iacoboni "originally from Italy", for lay people. He does TMS studies at the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA. We learn Giacomo Rizzolatti and Vittorio Gallese through serendipity discovered the mirror neurons (area F5) while studying Macaca nemestina in Parma, Italy some 20 years ago while doing neurophysiologic experimentation using brain electrodes. We learn the author has been lecturing on mirror neurons for a decade and that his wife Mirella Dapretto is a developmental psychologist expert in autism and pediatric brain imaging using fMRI.

The subject of mirror neurons, their function, location & importance engendering empathy, morality, social cognition and self-awareness is explained - and NY Times reports: "The discovery is shaking up numerous scientific disciplines, shifting the understanding of culture, empathy, philosophy,..." Thusly, ,a collection of material is provided: function of mirror cells, imitation as distinguishing human trait of self versus other, empathy & morality, coding intentions, gestures (iconic, beating, & emblem), palm mental reflex, McGurk effect, chameleon effect, Moebius syndrome, maternal empathy, mirror sign, mirror recognition test, embarrassment syndrome, autism & Asperger's. The latter two may be regarded as instances of "broken mirrors" that can lead to social deficits.
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