http://www.mpg.de/english/illustrationsDocumentation/documentation/pressReleases/2005/pressRelease20051005/

What we cannot do ourselves, we cannot understand in others

Successful social communication is based, above all, on the ability to understand the actions of other people. But how can we imagine what other people are thinking, or what intentions they have?

Researchers have shown that our own mind and body give us the foundation to understand what other people are doing, thinking, or feeling — evidence for this comes out of an experiment involving two patients that, because of an extremely rare illness, lost the ability to perceive their own body.

Lacking feedback from their own body, these patients were unable to predict not only the consequences of other people’s actions, but were unable to “put themselves in the position” of another person.

Such a feedback mechanism is the basis for sympathy and empathy, and thus necessary for the success and continuity of social relationships.

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