Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt (AUSTRIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 40-45
ISBN: 978-84-616-2661-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
This paper deals with the discovery of mirror neurons, their most important features and the way they influence our social lives. It focuses on their impact on children and their behavior at school. This paper aims at teachers and students in the teachers’ program who hope to better understand their pupils by gaining some insight into the way mirror neurons work.
In the early 1990s, mirror neurons were discovered by a group of scientists from the University of Parma in Italy, lead by Giacomo Rizzalotti. First observed in a monkey’s ventral premotor cortex, they were soon found to be present in human brains as well. Mirror neurons’ defining functional characteristic is that they are activated when a motor act is performed and also when it is witnessed. Mirror neurons enable us to understand, interpret and imitate observed actions and to predict their results intuitively. They inform us about other peoples’ mental and physical condition and can change our own by mirroring our counterpart’s (Bauer 2009:52f).
From birth, mirror neurons enable children to communicate with their environment by imitating actions they witness. Although imitation is not an essential part of communication anymore when speech is acquired, mirror neurons allow us to keep imitating facial expressions, sentiments and postures subconsciously throughout life, thus facilitating interpersonal relationships (Bauer 2009:54). Nevertheless, mirror neurons have so far received little attention in educational theory. As teaching always involves interpersonal dealings, however, they play an important role in teacher-student-relations and students’ behavior in classroom. This paper is supposed to raise awareness to the way mirror neurons work and their range of influence; thus contributing to an improvement of children’s learning environment and interpersonal communication at school.

Bauer, Joachim. 2009. „Kleine Zellen, große Gefühle – wie Spiegelneuronen funktionieren. Die neurobiologischen Grundlagen der «Theory of Mind»“. In: Ulrich Herrmann (ed.). Neurodidaktik. Grundlagen und Vorschläge für gehirngerechtes Lehren und Lernen. Weinheim: Beltz, pp. 49-57