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Although the control of action in humans is fairly well understood, the processes that underlie action understanding from observation are much more unclear. In general, action understanding refers to the ability to recognize the purpose of an action performed by another person (Hickok 2008). Two prominent theories exist to explain this phenomenon. The first posits that action understanding is an inferential process that integrates contextual clues to determine the goal of a movement. In contrast, the second theory asserts that action understanding arises from the simulation of the observed action in the motor areas of the viewer (Brass et al. 2007). While the inferential process theory enjoyed a period of general acceptance, the discovery of mirror neurons, cells in macaque frontal area F5 which respond both when an action made and when that same action is observed, turned the tide in favor of the embodied simulation theory (Gallese et al. 1996). Overall, though mirror neurons are undoubtedly active as a result of motor observation, it is unlikely based on empirical evidence tha…
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