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Mirroring People [Hardcover]

Marco Iacoboni
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux; 1 edition (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374210179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374210175
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 15 x 21.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 559,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By Rolf Dobelli TOP 500 REVIEWER
In this fascinating book, Marco Iacoboni wordily explains his research into mirror neurons, generally in language that laypeople can understand. He convincingly issues a challenge to the individualistic foundations of Western thought. People imitate one another, Iacoboni argues, on a neurological level: People's brains respond to the actions of others, almost as though they were doing those actions themselves. What's more, different levels of neural activity occur depending on context and purpose. The human world is social, and each person's actions have immediate, neurological implications for everyone else. Because of the number of fields Iacoboni touches on, and the broad implications mirror neurons have for society, getAbstract recommends his book to readers who are interested in communication, advertising, cognitive science and philosophy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 8 July 2014
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
151 of 170 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly what I had in mind 18 May 2008
By Bruce Gregory - Published on
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.
66 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound Insight into the Revolution in Neuro-science 6 Jun 2008
By Historied - Published on
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. Of course this breaking down of barriers between self and other is rather threatening to much of the current received wisdom in psychology, economics, not to mention wider society. So read this book to have your existing understanding challenged; open yourself to the idea that your reading of others is much more accurate than you think; though exercise some care with certain more manipulative folk who self-deceive. The professional reviewers of this book cited, in my view give a fair impression of its importance and how it might shape future research. Outstanding!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good review of literature for non-neuroscientists 24 Nov 2008
By Firat Soylu - Published on
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.
39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Broken mirrors: autism & Asperger's" 14 Jun 2008
By Russell A. Rohde MD - Published on
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 " x 5 ".

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.

All in all, this research is obviously important and one prays that the focus of such expensive & highly technical work aught to prioritize the study of autism & Asperger's syndrome maximally, dwelling somewhat less on studies on effective of advertisements (ads) & college student's thoughts about political candidates (neuromarketing & neuropolitics) - although that may be where the big money lies!

Unfortunately, the author is not a fluid writer - his prose is jerky, wordy, self grandiosing, and unrestrained with poorly defined time lines - unfortunate since the subject matter is so fertile and promises so much more.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, Fascinating's only that the writing is inadequate. 9 Jan 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
There are few people working on the science of Mirror Neurons today: Antonio Damasio (author of Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, 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 - Self Comes to Mind.

As a last word, I really appreciate Iacoboni's last chapter the best; in this chapter he states this: "In my lectures on mirror neurons I often conclude by saying that our research should be called existential neuroscience. I say this because the themes raised by mirror neuron research map well onto themes recurrent in existential phenomenology." He later adds, "The existentialists have constantly reminded us that what is worth understanding and knowing is our existence, the human condition, and that engagement and involvement are superior to a detached stance. Mirror neurons are brain cells that seem specialized in understanding our existential condition and our involvement with others. They show that we are not alone, but are biologically wired and evolutionarily designed to be deeply interconnected with one another." It was in this last chapter that Iacoboni really did his best writing I believe.
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