Dance Like Beyoncé. Sing Like Celine Dion.
Mirror Neurons Make It All Possible
Interested in getting better at a particular skill? Want to learn how to do something you’ve never done before? Well, you’re in luck. Here’s the inspiration to encourage you to go for it, and the science that proves you can do it.
New scientific data indicate that whatever you see, you simulate in your mind. Yes! Whatever action and experience you see others engaged in, even though you don’t necessarily move a muscle, you feel the experience as if you were the one doing it. Think about the implications of this information. It could mean that you can dance like Beyoncé, move like Madonna and sing like Celine Dion.
As scientists explored some of the brain’s neurological wonders called mirror neurons, they noticed that when a subject watched another person perform an action, the region of the brain responsible for the action was activated in the subject’s brain.
Studies conducted by University of Washington’s Dr. Andrew Meltzoff suggest we’re hard-wired to imitate what we see. Mirror neurons are thought to be the reason why. Think about it: you yawn when you see someone else yawn. You’re very likely to smile or laugh when someone else does so. You react as if it’s painful when you see someone being punched hard. You probably feel a sense of humiliation when you witness another’s public failure or ridicule. And, if you’re like me, you cry when you see someone else cry. Well, it’s all the work of mirror neurons.
Here are a few instances of constructive mimicking from the world of sports. Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister was the first person known to run a mile in four minutes. After he ran his four-minute mile, many others did so. Until he did it, no one believed it was possible. After he proved it was possible, suddenly others were able to run a mile in four minutes.
Today, Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, currently said to be the fastest man in the world, knows that Yohan Blake is hot on his trail. Blake watched Bolt break the world record and knows he too can do it. In fact, according to the science of mirror neurons, Blake broke the world record while he witnessed Bolt accomplishing the feat. He did it in his mind. He mimicked Bolt’s actions and achievement, while Bolt carried out the task.
So, what does this mean for you and me? It means we can do just about anything we choose to. All we have to do is watch and learn…and maybe practice, practice, practice, too.
Seriously, whatever your development needs and interests, get to it. Find someone who does well what you want to learn. Watch them in action and let your mirror neurons support your success in learning the desired skill. Then, put the skill to use and perfect it through repeated, committed practice.
If you want to dance like Beyonce, move like Madonna or sing like Celine Dion, watch them at work. Let your mirror neurons take it all in. Then, get up and get busy trying out your new-found skills.
You can learn more about mirror neurons at:
- “Cells That Read Minds” (New York Times)
- Giacomo Rizzolatti – Mirror Neurons (Go Cognitive)
- “The Mind’s Mirror” (American Psychological Association)