Mirror, mirror….

A big hat-tip to Stefan Liute for his post The biological hardware for culture. He points to this article from the NY Times: Cells that read minds. Here are a few morsels of the Times piece:

“We are exquisitely social creatures, ” Dr. Rizzolatti said. “Our survival depends on understanding the actions, intentions and emotions of others.”

He continued, “Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual reasoning but through direct simulation. By feeling, not by thinking.” …

Until now, scholars have treated culture as fundamentally separate from biology, she [another scientist] said. “But now we see that mirror neurons absorb culture directly, with each generation teaching the next by social sharing, imitation and observation.”…

When you see someone touched in a painful way, your own pain areas are activated, he [another researcher] said. When you see a spider crawl up someone’s leg, you feel a creepy sensation because your mirror neurons are firing.

NB that notion of understanding by feeling, not thinking.

And here’s a snippet that I particularly liked:

Mirror neurons work best in real life, when people are face to face. Virtual reality and videos are shadowy substitutes.

There’s no substitute for a real meeting. And all this reinforces my experience that a huge amount more happens between us when we meet than the mere exchange of words. When I’m working with groups, I try not to overemphasise laborious flipcharting of “what we’re learning” as I think it tends to devalue a lot of what we’re learning unconsciously.

Note to self: more grist to the mill of challenging “the tyranny of the explicit”.

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