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Mirroring People: The Science of Empathy and How We Connect with Others Paperback – June 23, 2009

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Mirroring People: The Science of Empathy and How We Connect with Others + The Empathic Brain + The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Original edition (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312428383
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312428389
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Want to learn what mirror neurons have to do with Super Bowl commercials, violent video games, autism, addiction, and even free will? This is your book."--Discover magazine

"Explaining how mirror neurons might change our notion of free will, act as neural precursors to language, and shed light on human empathy, Iacoboni nimbly takes us through the experiments that led to these findings."--Seed magazine

"Pioneer researcher Iacoboni balances technical detail with engaging historical perspective, humor, and idealism."--Library Journal

"To read this marvelously accessible book is to share Iacoboni's enthusiasm.... A book full of wonder and promise."--Booklist

About the Author

MARCO IACOBONI's research has been covered by newspapers around the country, and he has appeared on ABC Good Morning America, the CBS Early Show, and NPR Morning Edition, among other TV and radio programs.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 20 customer reviews
One of my favorite things about the book was that the author seemed to respect his readers.
K. Wilkins
Perception and action are an integrated process so these sensory neurons are firing at the same time as the motor neurons that are required to perform such action.
Matthew Young
Well and fluently written this book describes revolutionary steps in the neurocognitive field.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Justin Adams on September 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
"Mirroring People" is a must-read for anyone interested in up-and-coming topics in neuroscience, or just as a cursory pick for a brain book. It is an extremely easy read; any medical jargon or procedures mentioned are clearly explained even for those without any prior knowledge of the subject. A big attraction of this book is that it provides a biological basis for, as the subtitle suggests, "How We Connect with Others."

Marco Iacoboni presents mirror neurons in the first chapter as the specialized brain cells in an area of the brain called the premotor cortex, which specializes in the planning and execution of actions. While conducting an experiment in which researchers were recording single neuron readings from monkeys, one researcher found that the neurons were firing (a term used when a neuron is being activated) when said researcher was performing an action the monkey was familiar with. One story has it that the researcher had ice cream and was in the physical act of bringing it to his mouth to take a bite when the neurons in the premotor cortex began firing. While this particular story is eventually debunked, that these cells were activated not only when the monkey was anticipating the action but when it saw others performing provided neuroscientists with an entire new area to study.

After describing what these mirror cells are, Iacoboni does a beautiful job of pinpointing experiments that naturally progress from this simple observation to the broad implications mirror cells have. The basis of mirror cells is imitation. One experiment Iacoboni cited involved two children that were placed in a room that was chock full of objects, two of each. What the experimenters found was that when one child but put on a cowboy hat, the other one would put the other cowboy hat on.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Donald Schell on December 5, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an Episcopal priest, founder of an innovative congregation ([...]), and now teacher and consultant to church leaders, I'm finding evolutionary and neurological studies of emmpathy and compassion a fantastically valuable contribution (and useful challenge) to stuck assumptions about what intentional human communities (like churches) are really for. The two best popular books I've found so far for this are *Mirroring People*, Frans de Waal's *Age of Empathy.* Both lay out arguments and experiments with a clarity that makes them accessible to a non Ph.D. reader who cares about empirical inquiry. Both are written so accessibly that I actually found them page turners, hard to put down. Both Iacoboni and de Waal come across as engaging, genuinely collaborative teachers who refuse to talk down to students (us readers) and who are passionate enough about their work and trust it and us enough to use accessible, non-jargony language and good storytelling. I've been steadily recommending the combination of the two books to interested colleagues.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are few people working on the science of Mirror Neurons today: Antonio Damasio (author of The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness and Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain), Giacomo Rizzolatti (author of Mirror Neurons and the Evolution of Brain and Language (Advances in Consciousness Research, 42)) and Vitorrio Gallese (author of Mirrors in the Brain: How Our Minds Share Actions, Emotions, and Experience) being some of the most prominent in the field. The work being done by these four men is widely cited throughout the field of psychology.

Iacoboni's book is useful for bringing the average reader up-to-speed on the research behind mirror neurons. My only complaint is that there is something off kilter about the writing style...I can't really articulate what it is other than to say that I felt as though I was frequently waiting for Iacoboni to get to the point. Perhaps it is because English is not his first language (I am not certain about this), but suffice it to say that I felt a certain kind of tension while reading this book. With that aside, I think this is a decent book and recommend it although I would recommend Damasio's newest book first -
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35 of 47 people found the following review helpful By David M. Giltinan on September 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
I've run across so many non-fiction duds recently that I thought it would be helpful to make a short list of what I look for in a good non-fiction book. There are obvious additions or deletions, depending on whether one is talking about biography, current affairs, history or popular science. But for a book like this one, advertised as an accessible account of recent developments in an important branch of neuroscience, here's a short list of what I hope for:

# Context: give me a sense of where the material in the book fits in the overall scheme of things.
# Organization and signposting: find a reasonable scheme for organizing the material and stick to it. Tell me at the outset what you're going to cover, then cover it, then tell me again what the important takeaway message is.
# Establish credibility: be authoritative without being condescending or vain.
# Be intelligible: write clearly, and at a level that's appropriate for your target reader (note that this requires that you actually have a specific readership in mind). Avoid academic jargon as far as possible.
# Incorporate figures, graphs, and diagrams intelligently - this can often eliminate huge swaths of verbiage.
# Choose good examples. Ideally, they should grab the reader's attention, motivate the questions discussed and illuminate the answers.

Regrettably, Marco Iacoboni's Mirroring People fails to satisfy almost all of these desiderata. I found the book so annoying that I made it only two thirds of the way through.
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