Contribution of Mirroring Processes to Human Mindreading

La Contribution des Processus de Résonance à la Cognition Sociale

International Workshop, December 8-11, 2005
Château de Maffliers, France

This workshop is organized by members of the Institut Jean Nicod, as part of the networking activities of the ESF programme "Mindreading and the emergence of human communication". It is financially supported by the European Science Foundation (Eurocores, OMLL), the Ile-de-France Regional Council and the IPSEN Foundation, and institutionally supported by the Department of Cognitive Studies (Département d'Etudes Cognitives) of Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris).

  Practical informations


Aims of the Workshop

The contribution of mirroring processes to human mindreading

Recent advances in the cognitive neuroscience of action have considerably enlarged our understanding of human motor cognition. In particular, the activity of the mirror system, first discovered in the brain of non-human primates, is currently being interpreted as providing an observer with the understanding of a perceived action by means of the motor simulation of the agent’s observed movements. More recently, brain imagery in humans has revealed that the same brain structure (namely, the human insula), which is active when a person experiences such a basic emotion as disgust caused by inhaling an odor, is also active when the same person visually perceives the face of another person experiencing disgust. These discoveries raise the prospects of a “mirroring” theory of social cognition, according to which the basis of human social cognition would be provided by these mirroring (or resonating) brain mechanisms. Human social cognition includes the ability to mindread, i.e., to represent other people’s mental states, which is crucially involved in human verbal and non-verbal communication. Prior to the recent discoveries of mirroring phenomena by cognitive neuroscience, several cognitive psychologists and philosophers of mind have offered a simulation account of mindreading, according to which the fundamental cognitive process lying at the basis of human mindreading would be the ability to use one’s own cognitive resources in order to simulate another’s mind. One important issue is whether the various mirroring phenomena discovered by cognitive neuroscience should be interpreted as the neural substrates that underlie the use of simulation, which, according to simulation theorists, constitutes the basis of the human mindreading system.
In the Fall 2004, Gloria Origgi and Dan Sperber organized a web seminar entitled "The meaning of mirror neurons", in which five distinct papers (by Vittorio Gallese, Pierre Jacob and Marc Jeannerod, Gergely Csibra, Alvin Goldman and Susan Hurley) were put on line and discussed for a period of three months. The proceedings are available at:
The workshop, which is a sequel to this web seminar, is intended to maximize discussions among participants working in distinct experimental and intellectual paradigms (e.g., cognitive neuroscience, linguistic pragmatics and developmental psychology).