Mirror Neurons – It’s like “monkey see, monkey do”

I love talking about Mirror Neurons.  I just do.  And during the summer 2012 Olympic Games in London it was thrilling to see such perfect examples of them.

Here is what they are:  You see a stranger stub her toe and you immediately flinch in sympathy. You watch a baseball outfielder run to catch a long fly ball and you feel your heart racing and your leg muscles pumping along with him. You notice a friend wrinkle up his face in disgust while tasting some food and your own stomach recoils at the thought of eating.

This ability to instinctively understand what other people are experiencing has long baffled neuroscientists and psychologists alike. That was until the discovery of mirror neurons that has us now know that when one human being does something or exhibits an emotion, the other people watching that person have the same mirror neurons firing in their brains that are causing the same experience and emotion as the speaker, actor, athlete, etc.  So they actually are that person, in a sense, for a moment.

We understand others not by thinking but by feeling.  Mirror neurons let us simulate not just other people’s actions but the intentions and emotions behind their actions.

In the Olympic Games, a hilarious example of how mirror neurons manifest was when US Olympic Women’s Gymnastics team member Aly Raisman’s parents are “with” her throughout her whole routine.  Watch this video:

I don’t know about you, when I was sitting in my easy chair in my living room in front of the TV watching Michael Phelps swim his events in some pretty close call races, my body was leaning hard to the left pulling toward the swimming pool wall for the finish.  That’s mirror neurons.

For our purposes, as leaders seeking mastery while presenting, it is important to know that what you project out physically and energetically has an effect on your audience.  If you project discomfort and unease, you risk getting that back from your audience.  So align your positive physical presence for best results!

Leave a Reply