Mirror neurons in the brain

Mirror neurons help us learn in business

Brain pathways Mirror neurons in the brain

We are able to live and learn vicariously through others experiences. In changing an activity or culture, the ‘mirroring neurons’ are the means by which we are able to experience a new behaviour. We do not necessarily have to physically do it ourselves. ‘Mirror neurons’ allow us to engage our audience.

Over 20 years ago physiologists, at the University of Parma Italy, discovered something interesting in their experiments with monkeys. They used electrodes to study the brain neurons used in the control of hand and mouth actions; for example, picking up a banana and eating it. They discovered that when a scientist, observed by the monkey, picked up a banana, the same neurons fired as when the monkey picked up the banana. We too are able to learn through observation and our sense of empathy, putting ourselves in another’s shoes.

Storytelling is a great way to activate these ‘mirror neurons’, allowing us to experience new behaviour or a new culture. We can watch someone do something then trying it ourselves, or live the experience through stories that engage our imaginations. In the fight against HIV and the abuse of women, radio programmes have been used to create a vicarious experience in their audience, allowing listeners to experience the ideas and choose new behaviours. In 1972 America tuned into an episode of “Maude”, entitled “Maude’s Dilemma” where she went through the process of deciding whether or not to have an abortion, effectively introducing the concept to millions of families. Miguel Sabido did the same thing in Mexico City with a programme “Ven Conmigo” (come with me), about adult literacy. The programme caused thousands of people to clog the streets of the city to get adult literacy pamphlets. They went on to join classes and literacy improved as they learned to read. Engaging stories can change lives.

Instead of just telling people – allow them to experience the new behaviour through powerful stories.

Mirror neurons in the brain

Mirror neurons in the brain

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Richard Riche

Change Communication and Employee Engagement specialist at One Clear Message Consulting
Richard specialises in helping you build real human communication skills. Employee Engagement / Experience, Emotional Intelligence skills, building high performance teams and a great place you want to work. TED style speaking and presentation skills. Training, consulting and coaching.
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