How do mirror neurons affect our use of social media?

Monkey see, monkey do.

The history behind that idiom has an impact on actions we all take today. The scene was 1992 in Parma, Italy. Bespectacled scientists led by Dr. Giacomo Rizzolatti observed the brains of monkeys watching the actions of humans and other monkeys.

The outcome was the discovery of mirror neurons, electrically excitable cells in the brain that fire similarly whether we perform a particular action or observe others performing it.

How Mirror Neurons Affect Us

When you watch blooper reels of people getting injured, do you sometimes feel squeamish? Why do you sometimes feel that way?

The networks of mirror neurons in your brain are to blame. Humans are hard-wired for imitation, and mirror neurons begin working at birth. Infants imitate the actions of their mothers, young children learn their speech from people around them (that’s why you don’t curse around them!).

Mirror neurons are shedding light on learning why we do what we do. “We are exquisitely social creatures,” Dr. Rizzolatti said. “Our survival depends on understanding the actions, intentions and emotions of others.”

Mirror Neurons in Daily Life

How do mirror neurons affect our use social media


When you read that word, it is likely that you thought about making a call, reached for your phone, and/or thought of anything involving your phone.

We are programmed to respond when someone makes a call, we see a phone being used, hear a ringtone or text tone and say or hear the word “phone”. When you see a friend reach for their pocket, as if to retrieve their phone, your brain has a copy of those actions stored.

Due to mirror neurons, you can presume their intentions and know what they’re going to do next. More often than not, you’ll instinctively feel around for your phone as well.

Mirror Neurons and Social Media

Can mirror neurons affect our social media use, too? You betcha! Just as we reach for our phones when we see others do the same, we open Twitter or Facebook or check our email when we see others doing the same.

Be cognizant and observant of that the next time you are out and about or hanging with friends. Like a yawn, these actions can spread through a room.

What Do You Think?

Imitated behaviors occur frequently whether we realize it or not, and mirror neurons influence everyone around us.

That includes at sporting events, art galleries, trips to the grocery store, etc. What are some other instances of mirror neurons triggering your actions? Where do you find yourself most influenced by others’ behaviors?

Let us know in the comments below or by leaving us a voicemail in the SpeakPipe widget to the right!

About Carson Reider

Carson Reider is a research and content contributor for NR Media Group and a graduate assistant at the Center for Sports Administration at Ohio University. He is currently pursuing an MBA/MSA and also writes for the Ohio University Sports Administration website and