Mirror Neurons & the importance of books
The Importance of Books
Mirror neurons are special nerve cells in the brain that make humans compassionate and responsive creatures. These cells react not only when we experience suffering, pain or pleasure ourselves, but also when we perceive these sensations in someone else through verbal and non-verbal communication. For example, if Dina observes that someone else has cut their finger while chopping vegetables, Dina herself experiences discomfort and can sympathize with how the pain feels. Dina is also able to expand her circle of empathy through reading literature and picture books with her parents (Graf & Seide, 2019).
From birth, humans are equipped with mirror neurons but the ability to reflect does not develop on its own - Dina needs a partner and communication which is understood by her. A story with diversity sensitive characters and content can provoke thoughts and discussions with Dina. In toddlers, it is the family who activates the possibility of mirror actions. Dina must first learn to understand and feel the feelings of others. Researchers assume that mirror neurons are fully developed between the ages of 3 and 4 years. From this point on, Dina has her own, independent view of the world. The fact that the mirror neurons are active in toddlers becomes visible when Dina begins to console her parents and peers. Dina recognized and understood the moment that her parent became sad and mirrored this emotion (Graf & Seide, 2018).
Prior experience plays a significant role in the function of the mirror neurons. For Dina who has never learned that friendly people can unexpectedly show unpleasant sides, her mirror neurons may respond differently to friendly people than those of people who have not had this positive experience. Mirror neurons can be stimulated for a lifetime and are able to gain new experiences that are then stored and later able to be retrieved.
The functioning of mirror neurons is indispensable to our everyday life together. In our brains, we have certain patterns stored that signal to us what certain actions & communication of others mean (Cummins, 2001).