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Contagious behavior: An alternative approach to mirror-like phenomena

  • Robert R. Provine (a1)

Contagious behaviors such as yawning and itching/scratching have mirror-like properties and clearly defined stimulus and motor parameters; they are also relatively easy to study and should be part of the debate about mirror neurons and the neurological mechanisms of social behavior. The broadly tuned, multimodal stimuli of contagious behavior challenge present accounts of mirror mechanisms that focus on specific, mirrored acts.

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Holle H., Warne K., Seth A. K., Critchley H. D. & Ward J. (2012) Neural basis of contagious itch and why some people are more prone to it. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109:19816–21.
Provine R. R. (1986) Yawning as a stereotyped action pattern and releasing stimulus. Ethology 72:109–22.
Provine R. R. (1996) Contagious yawning and laughter: Significance for sensory feature detection, motor pattern generation, imitation, and the evolution of social behavior. In: Social learning in animals: The roots of culture, ed. Heyes C. M. & Galef B. G., pp. 179208. Academic Press.
Provine R. R. (2005) Yawning. American Scientist 93:532–39.
Provine R. R. (2012) Curious behavior: Yawning, laughing, hiccupping, and beyond. Belknap/Harvard University Press.
Walusinski O., ed. (2010) The mystery of yawning in physiology and disease. Karger.
Ward J., Burckhardt V. & Holle H. (2013) Contagious scratching: Shared feelings but not shared body locations. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7(article 122):12.
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Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
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