Review Essay: Mirror Neurons in the Discourse of Social Sciences


  • Henning Pätzold Freie Hochschule Mannheim



mirror neurons, empathy, neurosciences, phenomenology


Since their discovery in the mid-1990s, mirror neurons have been the subject of continuous discussions in neurosciences as well as in the social sciences. The interest of scientists outside the life sciences in mirror neurons is primarily based on the fact that mirror neurons not only have epistemological meaning, but also seem to play an important role in processes of social insights and emotions, like empathy. With her book, Nadia ZABOURA provides a new contribution from a social and cultural sciences point of view, which critically reflects the discussion on mirror neurons and its consequences on the social sciences and humanities. Starting off from philosophical approaches to the mind-matter-dualism and the question of intersubjectivity, she explores the meaning of mirror neurons for the debate on empathy and communication. By discussing concepts of philosophy and communication sciences as well as current knowledge on mirror neurons, she concludes that they do not provide a stable basis for any material reductionism, which would explain phenomena like intersubjectivity only by recordable neuronal processes. The book refers to a variety of related theories (ranging from DESCARTES through to MEAD and TOMASELLO); these references are inspiring, yet they stay cursory for the most part. All in all the book offers avenues for further inquiry on the issues in focus, and can rather be taken as "tour of suggestions" through the topical field of mirror neurons and the related research. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1003245


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Author Biography

Henning Pätzold, Freie Hochschule Mannheim

Henning PÄTZOLD ist Professor für Pädagogik und Dozent an der Freien Hochschule Mannheim, außerdem Senior Researcher des Deutschen Instituts für Erwachsenenbildung (DIE). Seine Forschungsinteressen umfassen pädagogische Theorien des Lernens, pädagogische Verantwortung und europäische Erwachsenenbildung. Jüngere Veröffentlichungen sind u.a. "Strukturelle Kopplung, Konstruktivismus und Spiegelneuronen" (Pädagogische Rundschau 4/2010, S. 405-418), "Verantwortungsdidaktik" (Baltmannsweiler: SchneiderVerlag Hohengehren 2008), Learning in the world – towards a culturally aware concept of learning. European Conference on Educational Research (ECER),ätzold.pdf.



How to Cite

Pätzold, H. (2010). Review Essay: Mirror Neurons in the Discourse of Social Sciences. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(3).