Two mechanisms for simulating other minds: Dissociations between mirroring and self-projection

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93 Scopus citations


People often attempt to understand other minds by using their own thoughts and experiences as a proxy for those of others, a process known broadly as simulation. Recent research in cognitive neuroscience has identified the neural bases of two forms of simulation: mirroring and self-projection. Mirroring involves a vicarious response in which a perceiver experiences the same current mental state as that of another person, and has been linked recently to brain regions that "mirror" the experiential states of others. In contrast, self-projection involves imagining oneself in the same situation as another person, predicting one's thoughts and feelings in that hypothetical scenario and assuming that the other would think and feel the same way. This form of simulation has been linked to a set of regions known collectively as the default network and includes the medial prefrontal cortex, precuneus and posterior cingulate, and lateral parietal cortex. Although most discussions of simulation have conflated these two processes, here we describe the conceptual and empirical reasons to distinguish between self-projection and mirroring and suggest the unique role each plays in understanding others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-200
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • mentalizing
  • mirror system
  • self-projection
  • simulation
  • theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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