Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 437-458

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Neural resonance: Between implicit simulation and social perception

  • Marc SlorsAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen Email author 


Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi have recently argued against a simulationist interpretation of neural resonance. Recognizing intentions and emotions in the facial expressions and gestures of others may be subserved by e.g. mirror neuron activity, but this does not mean that we first experience an intention or emotion and then project it onto the other. Mirror neurons subserve social cognition, according to Gallagher and Zahavi, by being integral parts of processes of enactive social perception. I argue that the notion of enactive social perception does not yet explain why social perception is subserved by mirroring. I also argue that this problem cannot be avoided by means of an appeal to multiple realization. Instead, I propose a holistic model of neural resonance-based social cognition that does give an explanatory role to mirroring by allowing for a partial experiential overlap between experiencing and recognizing emotions and intentions. This account avoids the simulationist step-wise conception of social cognition and recognizes the qualitative difference between first- and third-person emotion and intention attribution. It does capture too much of the simulationist intuitions, however, to warrant the label ‘social perception’.


Social perception Simulation theory Neural resonance Mirror neurons Mental holism