I've recently been taking a look at artificial intelligence as a bit of a
hobby. The area that I am interested in is breaking down the human brain
into a series of basic components that can be modelled as a piece of
discrete hardware (to perform the basic functionality) such as a dsp and a
series of objects (OO software dev. is my background) to perform the
I've recently come across the recent discovery of Mirror Neurons that raises
some interesting questions to do with interaction design. For those that
don't know what these are, I've been told that the discovery of Mirror
Neurons (in the last 5 or so years) is to psychology as to what the
discovery of DNA was to genetics. It seems to me that when a person
performs an action, their Mirror Neurons fire in a specific pattern.
However, the big thing is that anyone who observes that action also has
their mirror neurons fire in the same pattern at the same time.
What this kind of means to me, is that if I observe you, then I will
experience everything that you do at the same time. For example, if you eat
a chocolate bar, then I will experience the same emotions and feelings you
do (although since my taste buds are not being triggered, I wont get the
actual taste, I will however experience the effect of the taste).
Its a bit of a heavy topic that one and there is plenty of info appearing on
the web. But I was wondering, do the mirror neurons also trigger when you
observe something that was written or designed by someone else. That is, if
I see an image on a TV screen or perhaps read a page from a book, will my
mirror neurons trigger in the same way as the person who is sitting next to
me and also sees the image on the TV or reads the same book. I know that my
sub-concious will be observing the person sitting next to me and my mirror
neurons will be firing in a similar way because of this, but perhaps if
there is a barrier in between so that effect can be taken out.
I'm thinking that when we design a device or an application we build it in
such a way as that our mirror neurons will fire in a pattern that is
pleasant to us. That is the emotional experience we gain is a good one. It
seems to me that if a group of individuals with a similar memory pattern
(cultural experiences) observe that device, then they will gain the same
emotional experience. Likewise, those that have a different memory pattern
(cultural experience) may observe the device and have their mirror neurons
triggered in the same way, but the translated meaning (experience) would be
different due to their differing culture (the same pattern recalls a
If this is true, then it seems to me that the art of designing something is
to place it in the context of the culture that it is being created for in
such a way that it develops pleasant emotions. This would mean that if you
are designing for a different culture (that you may not understand
completely), you can either make it generic enough so that it generates
neutral emotions, or you can add extra design features so as to teach the
foreign individual aspects about your own culture that are pleasant.
Has anyone else done any research into the effect on Mirror Neurons with
regard to inanimate objects. It seems to me most of it is currently being
done on people interaction.
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