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Positing a Space Mirror Mechanism Intentional Understanding Without Action?

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Recent evidence regarding a novel functionality of the mirror neuron system (MNS), a so-called 'space mirror mechanism', seems to reinforce the central role of the MNS in social cognition. According to the space mirror hypothesis, neural mirroring accounts for understanding not just what an observed agent is doing, but also the range of potential actions that a suitably located object affords an observed agent in the absence of any motor behaviour. This paper aims to show that the advocate of this space mirror hypothesis faces a crippling dilemma. Either what observed agents can do remains underdetermined by space mirror representations, and no proper understanding of action potentiality is gained; or, if it is just understanding of potential motor acts that is achieved through the sensorimotor representations generated by shared object-related affordances, the very explanatory role of space mirroring is compromised.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: ICREA Research Professor, Departament de Filosofia, Facultat de Filosofia i Lletres, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Edifici B, 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2013


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