Social grasping: from mirroring to mentalizing

Neuroimage. 2012 May 15;61(1):240-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.03.013. Epub 2012 Mar 13.


Because the way we grasp an object varies depending on the intention with which the object is grasped, monitoring the properties of prehensile movements may provide access to a person's intention. Here we investigate the role of visual kinematics in the implicit coding of intention, by using functional brain imaging while participants observed grasping movements performed with social versus individual intents. The results show that activation within the mirror system is stronger during the observation of socially intended movements relative to individual movements. Moreover, areas that form the mentalizing system are more active during social grasping movements. These findings demonstrate that, in the absence of context information, social information conveyed by action kinematics modulates intention processing, leading to a transition from mirroring to mentalizing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Female
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mirror Neurons / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment
  • Stereotaxic Techniques
  • Theory of Mind / physiology*
  • Young Adult