Review article: mirroring and the development of action understanding

Amanda Woodward, Sarah Gerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


The discovery of mirror neurons in the monkey motor cortex has inspired wide-ranging hypotheses about the potential relationship between action control and social cognition. In this paper, we consider the hypothesis that this relationship supports the early development of a critical aspect of social understanding, the ability to analyse others’ actions in terms of goals. Recent investigations of infant action understanding have revealed rich connections between motor development and the analysis of goals in others’ actions. In particular, infants’ own goal-directed actions influence their analysis of others’ goals. This evidence indicates that the cognitive systems that drive infants’ own actions contribute to their analysis of goals in others’ actions. These effects occur at a relatively abstract level of analysis both in terms of the structure infants perceive in others’ actions and relevant structure in infants’ own actions. Although the neural bases of these effects in infants are not yet well understood, current evidence indicates that connections between action production and action perception in infancy involve the interrelated neural systems at work in generating planned, intelligent action.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1644
Early online date28 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2014


  • Infancy
  • Social cognition
  • Mirroring
  • Action understanding
  • development


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