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Conscious Cogn. 2013 Sep;22(3):1114-21. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2013.04.008. Epub 2013 Jun 15.

Do infants provide evidence that the mirror system is involved in action understanding?

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Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, United Kingdom. Electronic address:


The mirror neuron theory of action understanding makes predictions concerning how the limited motor repertoire of young infants should impact on their ability to interpret others' actions. In line with this theory, an increasing body of research has identified a correlation between infants' abilities to perform an action, and their ability to interpret that action as goal-directed when performed by others. In this paper, I will argue that the infant data does by no means unequivocally support the mirror neuron theory of action understanding and that alternative interpretations of the data should be considered. Furthermore, some of this data can be better interpreted in terms of an alternative view, which holds that the role of the motor system in action perception is more likely to be one of enabling the observer to predict, after a goal has been identified, how that goal will be attained.


Action understanding; EEG; Infants; Mirror neurons

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