Copyright © PiN



Mirroring and simulated intentionality


Cognition and Education Science, “Ca’ Foscari” University, Venice, Italy












Progress in Neuroscience 2013; 1 (1-4): 63-69.

doi: 10.14588/PiN.2013.Mario.63







Twenty years after their discovery, in spite of empirical evidence that points strongly towards the existence of mirror neurons in humans, not to mention the far-reaching implications of mirroring mechanisms in various branches of learning, the role of mirror systems in human cognition remains hotly disputed, particularly in Italy. Internationally, the discovery of mirror neurons appears to represent one of the greatest achievements in neuroscience, as it would overturn not only current knowledge on the structuring of cognitive working, but also epistemology itself in different branches of learning. Why is it so difficult for neuroscientists and psychologists to recognize the role of mirror mechanisms at a gnosiological level? Why are their implications so “difficult to digest” for some, and utterly convincing for others? Why is it so difficult to accept the existence of this basic mechanism, which is both elegantly simple and highly sophisticated? Is it because this would completely revolutionize our comprehension of the behaviour and intentions of other people without involving high-level actions of a symbolic-computational nature? In the attempt to provide answers to these questions, I will now present what neuroscientists have to say on the matter, and raise some merely speculative hypotheses in order to add grist to the mill. At the same time, I will try to develop the idea according to which “conceptual intentions” (theories) assigned to the others - i.e., neuroscientist proponents of mirrors - are to be assigned to “the intentions of those who watch” rather than the intentions of those who are watched. The results of research on the mirror neuron system tell us that it is through this particular class of neurons that we (as observers) grasp the intentions of others. While this seems to be a fact that contradicts the idea proposed, in this paper I will argue that this contradiction is only apparent, because the conceptual intentions attributed to others are formed on the basis of perceptual-motor patterns internalized by an observer (Buccino, Binkofski et al., 2004; Calvo-Merino et al., 2005; Rizzolatti and Sinigaglia, 2006) and therefore represent an interesting example of mirroring.

KEY WORDS: Mirror neuron, Neuro-conceptual configurations, Simulated intentionality.





Articles from Progress in Neuroscience are provided here courtesy of

SNO & new MAGAZINE s.r.l.



Cited by





 Progress in Neuroscience - ISSN 2240-5135 - Copyright  © 2011-2015 SNO & new MAGAZINE s.r.l. - Italy