Successful social communication is based, above all, on the ability to understand the actions of other people. But how can we imagine what other people are thinking, or what intentions they have? Psychologists and neuroscientists trace it back to a kind of simulation that goes on in our brain as soon as we observe a person acting. The actions of the observed person are, so-to-speak, internally imitated. Indeed, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Neurosciences in Munich, in cooperation with scientists from the University of Bournemouth in England and Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, have shown that we understand the actions of another person, apparently, on the basis of our own "action inventory". In other words, our own mind and body give us the foundation to understand what other people are doing, thinking, or feeling. Evidence for this comes out of an experiment involving two patients that, because of an extremely rare illness, lost the ability to perceive their own body. (Nature Neuroscience, October 2005).
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