Vicarious Emotional Experience

From the NY Science Times:

“Ballet lovers may “truly feel that they are dancing” when they watch a performance, researchers have found after measuring the brain activity of experienced spectators.”

“In findings published in the current issue of the journal PLoS One, the scientists report that the spectators showed muscle-specific responses in their brain as if they were expert dancers — even though “they were clearly not capable of doing the actual movements,” in the words of one author, Corinne Jola, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Surrey in England.”

My theory of behavior is that the animal mind involuntarily projects its sense of its physical center-of-gravity into complex objects of attraction, and through a Pavlovian phase of imprinting acquired during the earliest part of life, thereby feels what complex objects of attraction are feeling, a phenomenon that is especially pronounced in regards to whole body movements. I maintain that this will prove to be the only interpretation of behavior that can accommodate the first principles of nature and encompasses Dr. Wolpert’s research, which demonstrates that the brain evolved in service to motion.

Interestingly, the article goes on to note that this same “emotional transference” (my interpretation of the phenomenon) was not detected in spectators of a classical form of Indian dance which relies more on intricate hand gestures and the context of story narrative to engage the audience. This indicates to me that this form of dance is more a cerebral experience than a visceral one.

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Published March 28, 2012 by Kevin Behan
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5 responses to “Vicarious Emotional Experience”

  1. Annie says:

    Wow…that is really interesting; I immediately had two thoughts… the Wii sports game that has captivated so many people, worldwide…it offers five sports- tennis, baseball, bowling, golf, and boxing. Players use the Wii Remote to mimic actions performed in real life sports, played on a screen, such as swinging a tennis racket. The rules for each game are simplified to make them more accessible to new players. The games also feature training and fitness modes that monitor players’ progress in the sports. Thus it is possible for someone to engage in the body mechanics of a game they have never experienced in the actual setting.

    My second thought was less complex- recently I watched Luke, sleeping, while his paws actively chased after something, and he made whimpering sounds…I would love to know what he was “seeing” in his mind. Probably not ballet dancers….

  2. Josh D says:

    That reminds me of a story I heard after the last earthquake in Haiti. There was a music teacher who kept himself alive after being trapped by “playing” classical pieces over and over for days until he was rescued. It turns out that studies have shown the neural pathways and patterns that are used when playing music are exactly the same as when the music is listened to, or even “played” through listening to the piece from memory by a musician. This also has implications for music that we are exposed to when we are very young – tendencies seem to be that people gravitate towards musical experiences which seems to me that those neural pathways “feel good” when treaded upon again and again… especially when an emotional response is connected to them (or has caused them in the first place!) I may not have some of this information exactly right, but if your interested, check out “This Is Your Brain On Music.” Fascinating (if you are a music/brain dork)…

  3. kbehan says:

    An experiment was reported on by “Radio Lab” with the brains of mice or rats hooked up while they were learning to run a maze; a certain pattern of brain waves was recorded. Later when they were sleeping, that same pattern was replayed thereby suggesting they were dreaming of maze running. So Luke must be dreaming about whatever gets his “maze” running.

  4. Annie says:

    Josh D: I am a musician, and often tell my students that if they can’t practice their actual piano, then to visualize the music and “finger it” on their pillow, as they go to sleep. Some of my best young students are able to do this successfully.

    Kevin: do some dogs seem more restless in their sleep patterns than others? Maybe this comes from mental stimulation during their waking hours. I know that I challenge Luke, mentally, every day to review things he has been taught.

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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