monkey see, monkey do

this article is rather sobering given the amount of time most kids spend playing video games and watching TV. here's an excerpt:

When we watch another person move, our observations of their movement activates in our own brain the same areas that are involved when we make that movement. This innate tendency for imitation was first observed in macaque monkeys where "mirror neurons" in the monkey's prefrontal cortex respond both when the monkey grasps a peanut and when it watches another monkey grasp it. Mirror neurons are also active in our brains.

If you observe my hand reaching for a cup of tea the motor cortex in your brain will become slightly active in the same areas you would use if you reached for the cup of tea yourself. Further, if you observe my lips as I savor the tea, the area of your brain corresponding to lip movements will fire as well. Of course that doesn't mean you can taste my tea but it does mean that I am directly affecting your brain as you watch me drinking it. And the process is reciprocal. If you pour yourself a cup of tea, a similar pattern occurs in my brain. In both situations the artificial distinction between you and me breaks down; we form a unit influencing each other's actions: I alter your brain as a result of your observations of me, and vice versa.

On the bright side, we can stack the deck for healthy behaviors by letting our children watch us doing them. The power of example penetrates into the brain at a cellular level.

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Jon said...

Wow, this is very interesting. It opens up a whole new idea of setting a good example. Beyond the traditional view of hoping they will see what you are doing and emulate it of their own conscious decision, you can hope to embed it in their very subconscious by being a good role model and letting your children see it.

karen alonge said...

exactly, Jon! and it also explains why "do as I say, not as I do" is a futile instruction.

I wonder Gandhi knew about this when he said we must BE the change we wish to see in the world ...