Cecilia Heyes • Geoffrey Bird | Mirroring, association, and the correspondence problem

Watching you eating an apple, my brain activates the same motor neurons that are involved when I eat an apple. In cognitive science, this is referred to as mirroring – essentially when we see someone else perform an action, we mentally perform that action as well. There are a variety of theories which try to explain why/how mirroring happens. The associative sequence learning (ASL) model described by Heyes and Bird provides a sensorimotor empiricist perspective of this phenomenon. From this perspective, mirroring is “an interaction between individuals and their environment” (learned rather than innate) which is “mediated by direct excitatory and inhibitory connections between exteroceptive sensory representations and…interoceptive representations”.

For example, an infant may hear a particular tapping sound, sometimes when she is hitting a table with her hand, and, at other times, when she sees a caregiver hitting a table in the same way (Jones,2006). As a consequence of this ‘acquired equivalence’ experience (Hall,1996), visual and motor representations of the hitting action will each become linked to a representation of the sound. This ‘indirect vertical association’ enables activation of the visual representation to be propagated to the motor representation via the sound representation, and, to the extent that it allows the sound concurrently to activate visual and motor representations of the hitting action, to the formation of a direct vertical association between them.


Reference

Cecilia Heyes + Geoffrey Bird | Mirroring, association, and the correspondence problem

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