Title: Mirroring People
Author: Marco Iacoboni
Fun Fact: People who think about rabid soccer fans before general knowledge tests do worse than a control group, while people who think about professors before the test do better than the controls.
Review Summary: Wow – this is some incredibly interesting and well explained research. I’d highly recommend this to pretty much anyone.
Mirror neurons are the part of our brain which allow is to interpret other’s emotions, predict their intentions when they begin an action, and probably enable our ability to communicate using language. In Mirroring People, Marco Iacoboni explains clearly and intelligently the cutting edge research on this fascinating part of our brain – research with which he was intimately involved. The basic premise of this work is that we use the same neurons to preform an action and when we watch other people perform an action. This lets us put ourselves in their shoes to better understand what they’re doing and why.
As soon as I started this book, I could tell it was going to be good. The author’s intelligence and enthusiasm were obvious from the tone of the writing. While mirror neurons weren’t a topic I was familiar with, I still had no trouble understanding the points the author made and quickly saw the exciting implications of his work. There were lots of cool tidbits about the way our brain work and some of them, such as the fun fact in the header, even have useful implications for our daily life. One of the few things I didn’t like about this book was the way research results were presented. The author frequently prefaced them with an explanation of what you’d expect, and than what you would expect to happen did happen. It felt a little anti-climatic. Fortunately, the author’s excitement and the interesting content kept pulling me further into the book any way.
One of my favorite things about the book was that the author seemed to respect his readers. While everything was explained clearly, nothing felt overly simplified for a popular audience. Past beliefs in the field of neuroscience were explained and where new results contradicted older beliefs, that was mentioned. When there was still some controversy over a result, the author included that information. Finally, experiments were explained in detail, although they were never too hard to follow. Something of a human element was also included, since the author knows a lot of the researchers in his field and was able to include information about their personalities and talents. Overall, I thought this was an approachable, informative, fun read.