The Mirror Neurons Made Me Do It
Ever wonder why yawns are contagious, or why we feel the pain of a fictional onscreen character (at least until the credits roll)? It turns out that a team of neuroscientists at the University of Parma in Italy know the answer, or at least the beginnings of it.
It turns out that our brains are laced with "mirror neurons," which fire not only when we perform an action but also when we see someone else perform that action. These neurons thus play a role in everything from learning to walk and talk to demonstrating feelings of empathy. Some scientists have even theorized that the development of human culture, from making tools to visiting the same websites, is the product of advances in these neurons' mimetic capacity. Even some negative behaviors, like copycat crimes, may be related to the activity of mirror neurons.
So the next time you're tempted to pay a hefty price for the latest celebrity-endorsed "it" bag, or to buy a knockoff of a style you don't even particularly like but everyone is wearing, don't blame the machinations of the advertising industry. Just look in the mirror.