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Trends Cogn Sci. 2005 Jan;9(1):21-5.

The motor theory of social cognition: a critique.

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Institut Jean Nicod, UMR 8129, CNRS/EHESS/ENS, 1 bis, avenue de Lowendal, 75007 Paris, France. <>


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, provides an observer with the understanding of a perceived action by means of the motor simulation of the agent's observed movements. This discovery has raised the prospects of a motor theory of social cognition. In humans, social cognition includes the ability to mindread, and many motor theorists of social cognition try to bridge the gap between motor cognition and mindreading by endorsing a simulation account of mindreading. Here, we question the motor theory of social cognition and give reasons for our skepticism.

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