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Mirror neurons and their role in communication: Negotiation and public speaking

The human brain is filled with all sorts of mechanisms that allow you to imitate other actions, to be infected with a certain mood. For example, from a very early age children imitate the facial expressions of adults. People are naturally infected with laughter when they see others laughing, and they become sad when they watch a sad movie. Everyone is capable of understanding others, experiencing the same emotions, of empathy. This amazing ability is regulated by the action of mirror neurons.

What are mirror neurons and how do they work?

The theory of mirror neurons is based on the research of a neurobiologist from Italy. Giacomo Rizzolatti was the first to conduct experiments confirming the reality of the connection between brain cells and the repetition of movements and emotions.

The first studies were conducted in 1996, although the "mapping" of each other has always existed. In the animal world, it is especially well seen: birds fly in wedges, fish in a flock move synchronously, and frogs in a pond squawk loudly one after another.

Currently, there is no consensus on the main function of mirror neurons. Some scientists believe that with the help of these brain cells children learn different skills from adults. Others believe that they form empathy, that is, the ability to empathize emotionally. If this is true, it begs the question: Why do some people feel empathy, while others do not feel it at all? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer, as personality traits are shaped by a multitude of factors.

Experiments with monkeys

The first experiment was unexpectedly successful. A scientist investigated the neuronal activity of a monkey's brain when it ate raisins. Raisins were chosen because the macaque liked this treat. At some point, the right neurons were finally identified and Rizzolatti decided to rest. The hand itself reached for the treat, and at precisely that moment, the macaque brain neurons responded with excitement. The reaction of the cells was the same as when the animal itself had eaten the raisins.

Later, a group of scientists from France experimented with humans. Participants in the first group were given to smell pleasant and disgusting smells, and their reaction to the aroma was recorded in the form of photos. In this case, certain parts of the brain were activated.

Participants in the second group were shown a photo of the first, and the same areas of their brains were activated. This confirmed the existence of those mirror neurons, which were discovered by the Italian researcher.

All experiments resulted in a theory that still excites the minds of scientists.

How mirror neurons help with communication?

Professional negotiators and speakers know how to skillfully use their inner state to influence other people's beliefs, decisions, and actions. In recent years more and more attention has been paid to the development of empathy, that is, the ability to understand the position of the other person, to put oneself in his/her place.

The most important brain mechanism of interaction - the system of mirror neurons - underlies the evolution of interpersonal relations and the ability to build complex social structures. It is their functioning that helps instantly understand another person's feelings, actions, and emotional state. Thanks to mirror neurons, sympathy is formed, which is essential:

  • influences the establishment and maintenance of social relationships;
  • awakens self-confidence;
  • increases openness to the world and the ability to influence people;
  • improves the quality of group work and the ability to resolve crises constructively.

The charisma of the speaker and his ability to influence the audience is largely determined by the ability to empathize. It is necessary to develop and train this skill for successful activity. Otherwise, you can get into co-dependence, under the influence of the audience without the ability to regulate the process of interaction. The ability to empathize is an integral part of the charisma of a public speaker.

Mirror neurons during a speaker's speech

A speaker's inner attitude always affects the emotions of the audience. When talking about something, it is possible to make the audience feel the same feelings that drive the speaker. Tests conducted by scientists have shown that the brain of an engaged audience activates the same areas as the narrator, meaning, the speaker affects audience's emotions:

  1. degree of involvement, interest;
  2. the nature of the emotions experienced;
  3. the motivation to perform certain actions, to make certain decisions.

That is why a competent speaker, going up on stage or entering a meeting room, first of all, sets himself on positive emotions, a disposing atmosphere. The audience is equally infected with both positive and negative feelings. That is why it is more than important to regulate flexible energy and to keep the initial focus for a successful speech.


All social communications are processed and defined through the prism of emotions. Peculiarities of mirror neurons functioning continue to be actively studied by modern researchers. However, even at the stage already reached by science, it is very clear what contribution the knowledge of mirror neurons' existence in principle has made to the development of communications and their improvement.

Thanks to the work of mirror neurons the audience identifies itself with the speaker, mentally stand in his place, and is involved in the story. The main secret of a successful speech is competent self-tuning. The speaker must be clearly and distinctly aware of the emotions that he wants to arouse in the audience: that is what he must feel himself.

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Ekaterina Kardakova

Hello everyone! My name is Ekaterina Kardakova. I am an opera singer, vocal and presentation coach. Learn more about me and my work.

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