The motor theory of social cognition: a critique

By Pierre Jacob & Marc Jeannerod.

Abstract: Recent advances in the cognitive neuroscience of action have considerably enlarged our understanding of human motor cognition. In particular, the activity of the mirror system, first discovered in the brain of non-human primates, provides an observer with the understanding of a perceived action by means of the motor simulation of the agent’s observed movements. This discovery has raised the prospects of a motor theory of social cognition. In humans, social cognition includes the ability to mindread, and many motor theorists of social cognition try to bridge the gap between motor cognition and mindreading by endorsing a simulation account of mindreading. Here, we question the motor theory of social cognition and give reasons for our skepticism.