Northwestern University

Mon 12:00 PM

Dr. Arthur Glenberg: Joint action ramps-up the mirror neuron system in the service of social learning

When: Monday, May 7, 2018
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM  

Where: Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Sky Lobby Auditorium, 10th floor, 355 E. Erie, Chicago, IL 60611 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: None

Contact: Tommi Raij, MD, PhD   312.238.4401

Group: Shirley Ryan AbilityLab Research Seminar Series

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Title: Joint action ramps-up the mirror neuron system in the service of social learning


People prefer to act jointly rather than individually. Is this because joint action leads to affiliation at the cognitive level, or might there also be a deeper, body-based reason? We propose that joint action, much like using a physical tool, reshapes the body schema to take into account aspects of the partner. That is, a joint body schema (JBS) is formed. In our experiments, the participant and the experimenter use a wire to cut through candles. In the Joint condition, which should produce a JBS, the participant and the experimenter hold different ends of the wire and must coordinate forces to cut through the candle. In the solo condition, the participant holds one end of the wire and there is a plumb weight on the other end. After candle cutting, Joint participants, more than solo participants, confuse visual stimuli near the experimenter’s body with stimuli on their own bodies. In a second set of experiments, motor output (drawing straight lines) is more affected by watching the experimenter draw circles for Joint participants than for Solo participants. In a third experiment, Joint participants demonstrated better learning of a new motor task presented by the experimenter. In a fourth experiment, we used EEG mu-suppression to track the mirror neuron system while watching the experimenter move, and this was greater for the Joint participants. Thus, some effects of joint action can be understood as ramping up the mirror neuron system (Experiment 4) in the service of social learning (Experiment 3) and perception (Experiment 1).

Speaker info

Arthur Glenberg earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Miami University (the real one in Oxford, Ohio) in 1970 and his PhD from the University of Michigan in 1974. Glenberg’s research has focused on memory and language comprehension. Beginning in the middle 1990s, he began to develop the embodied approach to cognition. Within that framework, his research has focused on language, reading comprehension interventions (Moved by Reading and EMBRACE), and mirror neurons. His Google Scholar H-index is 59 with 40 papers with 100 or more citations. Glenberg was an associate editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human, Learning, and Memory, the author of an elementary statistics textbook, Learning From Data, the co-editor of Symbols, Embodiment and Meaning, and most importantly, was a member of Jordan Grafman’s dissertation committee.

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