Jan 18, 2019
Mirror neurons are the topic of today’s behavioral economics
podcast. We are really going to get into what they are, how they
work and why they matter in any business. Mirror neurons are the
key to empathy and our ability to learn from observing others
instead of only by doing things ourselves.
Mirror neurons have done some amazing things for all of humanity
– first of which is our ability to learn by observation and second
is our ability to empathize. In this episode I explain the
accidental discovery of mirror neurons, and talk about learning by
observation, our other senses, facial expressions and empathy. I
also include a lot of additional resources for further learning and
explain how this knowledge can be applied to any business.
- [03:52] Mirror neurons are the key to empathy and our ability
to learn from observing others instead of only by doing things
- [04:21] Mirror neurons were discovered in the early 1990s. The
whole thing happened by accident when scientists noticed that a
monkey's brain lit up when one of the researchers walked into the
lab eating an ice cream cone.
- [06:32] We humans have mirror neurons as well, and they greatly
impact our lives everyday.
- [06:47] Mirror neurons have done some amazing things for all of
humanity – first of which is our ability to learn by observation
and second is our ability to empathize.
- [06:55] We humans tend to take for granted how quickly and
easily we learn things simply by watching others. This isn't
something every species can do.
- [07:46] Without mirror neurons, life as we know it would not
- [08:08] Mirror neurons are how the species learned to hunt,
gather, farm, build homes, and all the skills we use every
- [08:26] The collective intelligence of the species grows very
quickly as one person learns to do something because others can
watch and have their brain behave as if it has already done it once
- [08:45] We each have 100 billion neurons in our brains and each
of those has 1,000 to 10,000 contacts with other neurons forming
- [09:36] Mirror neurons are actually found in one spot in the
brain – in the frontal lobes. The front of the brain is also home
to our ordinary motor control neurons.
- [10:51] A study found that the mirror neurons were more active
when the context was included – meaning both intentions and actions
matter and relate for mirror neurons.
- [11:03] Mirror neurons will not respond to random, meaningless
gestures – it has been found that they are specially connected to
respond to actions with clear goals.
- [11:46] The processing of the senses actually happens in the
brain. Because our brains bring context, interpretation and
analysis to everything we experience…it turns out they don’t really
know the difference between what is physically in front of us,
versus on tv, or a print ad, spoken into our ears or read in
- [12:54] Mirror neurons are what allow us to experience drinking
spoiled milk when we see someone else do it.
- [13:55] Seeing things is the best way to trigger mirror
neurons, but the other senses will trigger them, as well.
- [14:10] When someone smiles at you, your brain brain reacts as
if you are smiling too.
- [14:32] You don't have to be consciously aware of what's
happening, you just do it.
- [15:29] The response of mirror neurons is quick, intense, and
- [15:44] Mirror neurons may well be at the core of how we
understand the actions of others and empathize with them. Without
mirror neurons, we would probably not have any awareness of the
actions, intentions and emotions of others.
- [17:38] All that separates us from other people and
experiencing the same things they are experiencing at every moment
they are within our proximity…is our skin.
- [17:53] This is why people with phantom limb syndrome can be
helped by watching someone else get a massage.
- [19:45] Mirror neuron therapy helped a couple whose baby had a
stroke at 10 days old regain body control on his left side. I've
linked to the touching TED Talk.
- [21:16] BUSINESS APPLICATIONS - Video is effective. When you
can show someone taking the action you want your customers to take,
it makes it easier for them to follow suit.
- [22:54] Any time you can get someone to see another person
experiencing your product, it is good. HOWEVER you need to be very
careful of the facial expressions and all the slightest nuances of
the person in the video.
- [24:44] If the subconscious can fill in the gaps when presented
with a few images…that is important for using mirror neurons.
- [25:07] Our mirror neurons allow us to relate to what is being
displayed in the pictures and we fill in the gaps to make sense of
what we are supposed to do.
- [25:33] A well produced story with all the RIGHT details is
better than a drawn-out, verbose explanation any day.
- [25:46] Great storytellers can hold conversations well. Our
brains allow us to experience the words in the story as if we are
- [25:57] Include action words and partner them with matching
gestures to help the audience come along with you.
- [26:29] When you can activate mirror neurons, you are helping
the individual to familiarize themselves with your brand, story,
product or process.
- [26:57] Be aware of your actions and facial expressions even
when you aren't speaking.
- [27:25] Smile genuinely, be interested, and be inviting
whenever you're in a room with people.
- [28:14] To attract positive customers, you may need to try a
shift within yourself.
- [30:30] An experiment was done with an honesty snack box at a
workplace. They tried different images and the one with eyes on it
encouraged people to put more money in than those with
- [32:20] Showing your potential customer someone using the
product in the same way you want them to is a great way to activate
mirror neurons because it combines an action with intention.
- [33:20] Consider the actions and intentions to use mirror
neurons to the best of your ability.
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