Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Empathy and Proprioception

This article in Forbes (there's an ad that you have to click through) is one of several in the past six months or so talking about research indicating the use of botox can weaken one's empathy for others. 

“When the facial muscles are dampened, you get worse in emotion perception, and when when facial muscles are amplified, you get better at emotion perception.” . . .

. . . Taken together, the two studies seem to indicate a direct relationship between ability to express emotion through facial expression, and the ability to experience emotion oneself, or identify it in others.

Seems to me there's probably a connection between this information and the new information on mirror neurons.

Large explained that when we see someone doing something, our mirror neuron system attempts to replicate the same condition in our own mind. This enables us to empathize with someone else on a very fundamental level.

The discovery that mirror neurons are involved in hearing music shows that when we listen to music, the same cells that are active in motor actions are part of the response to the music. . .

In making music, proprioception would seem to be involved as well, as that's the sense that besides telling us how physically accurate we are, it's part of how we can tell whether and how we are gesturally informing the music with emotion.

During the learning of any new skill, sport, or art, it is usually necessary to become familiar with some proprioceptive tasks specific to that activity. Without the appropriate integration of proprioceptive input, an artist would not be able to brush paint onto a canvas without looking at the hand as it moved the brush over the canvas; it would be impossible to drive an automobile because a motorist would not be able to steer or use the foot pedals while looking at the road ahead; a person could not touch type or perform ballet; and people would not even be able to walk without watching where they put their feet.

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