how come mirror neurons don't work on unrequited love?
March 26, 2019 7:27 PM   Subscribe

or, why do they seem to only work on some emotions?

Our brains have these mirror neurons, apparently, which give us the ability mimic in our own minds what someone else is feeling.
I have a question about this but don't know anything about neurobiology or psychology so thought I would ask here:
When person X, for example, decides they are smitten with Q, why don't Q's mirror neurons kickstart a situation that results in "being in love." I mean mostly the biological sense of the word love, not romantic as much. But you can ask the same question of hate, or jealousy, etc.

Feel free to chuckle at my expense if the answer is really obvious. I'm stumped!
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee to Science & Nature (8 answers total)
 
That is very not what mirror neurons do. The basic understanding of them is that they fire in response to seen actions, not emotions. They're located primarily in motor areas (and similar areas)

Even if they did fire in response to emotions somehow, they don't make you mimic what the person you're watching is doing - you don't automatically move your arm when you see someone else move their arm, even if the mirror neurons fire in response to it.
posted by brainmouse at 7:40 PM on March 26, 2019 [10 favorites]


ah! okay, yes. that makes way more sense. thank-you :)
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 7:55 PM on March 26, 2019


You would feel the person's feeling of being in love with you; it wouldn't make you in love with them, because that's a different feeling.
posted by bearette at 8:15 PM on March 26, 2019 [3 favorites]




What the other posters said - mirror neurons are more of a fad than a really, really well understood concept (not to offend anyone).

If you do look at the basic principle of liking, some kind of snowball effect does seem to apply though, no? Think of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, the hero is very open about the fact that he falls in love with the heroine in part because she falls in love with him.
posted by karmachameleon at 1:48 AM on March 27, 2019 [4 favorites]


> he falls in love with the heroine in part because she falls in love with him

To follow up on that thought - in a love affair that ever gets past the unrequited stage, there's certainly an awful lot of conscious & unconscious mirroring going on between the lovers (socially, behaviourally, sexually, etc), but it's happening several layers up from the neuronal level. Neuron-level explanations will only get you so far, I think.
posted by rd45 at 5:17 AM on March 27, 2019 [3 favorites]


why don't Q's mirror neurons kickstart a situation that results in "being in love."

they do. are you kidding? PLENTY of people fall in love with people only because the other person fell in love with them first, it absolutely works. of course it works. not all the time, but a lot of the time. people have made vaguely sexist jokes about this for literal centuries (e.g. a man discovers that a woman he once thought plain and dull is in fact enticing and alluring, just because she thinks he's wonderful. how discerning of her to see his greatness! must be smarter than she seemed.)

yes, people absolutely mistake the sensation of being loved for the sensation of loving. that belated realization is the driving force behind a thousand melodramas. and sometimes they don't mistake it, it genuinely produces love. being adored is such a pleasure that it can make you love the one who adores you just out of simple gratitude.

does this mean you can stalk or harass someone into loving you? is it irresistible mind control? no and no; obviously not. is this kind of mirror love a terrible and sad love, doomed not to last? sure, I guess, usually. depends on the person. does it actually involve mirror neurons or just a semiconscious response to flattery? irrelevant. I am only saying you can't ask why a thing doesn't happen when it manifestly does happen.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:51 PM on March 27, 2019


PLENTY of people fall in love with people only because the other person fell in love with them first

I will not argue at all with the substance of this response, except to say that it has literally 0 to do with mirror neurons. If the question is why don't mirror neurons do that, it's because, like I said above, mirror neurons have nothing to do with that. If it's why doesn't it happen at all, then please refer to queenofbithynia's answer for a very good rebuttal to that point.
posted by brainmouse at 8:42 PM on March 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


« Older A month in Japan this summer.   |   IAAL, IAMOL Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.