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Mirror Neurons in a Group Analysis “Hall of Mirrors”: Translation as a Rhetorical Approach to Neurodisciplinary Writing



This article examines how mirror neuron research from the neurosciences is incorporated by the field of group analysis and made to fit within the history and practices of the field. The approach taken is from science and technology studies’ discussion of “translation” across actor-networks. The article ends with the suggestion that a translation analysis indicates good reason for rhetoric and writing scholars to consider “multiple ontologies” and to understand neurodisciplinary work as invention.
Mirror Neurons in a Group Analysis ‘‘Hall of Mirrors’’:
Translation as a Rhetorical Approach to
Neurodisciplinary Writing
David R. Gruber
City University of Hong Kong
This article examines how mirror neuron research from the neurosciences is incorporated by the field
of group analysis and made to fit within the history and practices of the field. The approach taken is
from science and technology studies’ discussion of ‘‘translation’’ across actor-networks. The article
ends with the suggestion that a translation analysis indicates good reason for rhetoric and writing
scholars to consider ‘‘multiple ontologies’’ and to understand neurodisciplinary work as invention.
Keywords: actor-network theory, mirror neurons, multiple ontologies, neurosciences, translation
In 1992, cognitive neuroscientists working in Italy noticed neurons firing in the F5 motor area of
a macaque monkey’s brain, both when the monkey saw an action as well as when the monkey
completed that same action (Di Pellegrino, Fadiga, Fogassi, Gallese, & Rizzolatti, 1992). The
name mirror neurons was subsequently given to those neurons that fired in both cases and
was intended to suggest the idea that the monkey might be internally ‘‘mirroring’’ its visual
environment through motor simulations. Since that time, mirror neurons have been studied
extensively in relation to monkeys and humans, explored for their role in imitating movements
(Caggiano et al., 2011; Carr, Iacoboni, Dubeau, Mazziotta, & Lenzi, 2003; Gallese & Keysers,
2001); predicting other people’s actions (Gallese & Goldman, 1998; Umilta` et al., 2001;
Goldman, 2006); identifying emotional expressions (Damasio, 2003; Gallese, Keysers, &
Rizzolatti, 2004; Wicker et al., 2003); and supporting complex memory systems (Gruber,
2002). Cognitive neuroscientist Ramachandran (2010) has even suggested in a TED Talk that
mirror neurons might be responsible for the foundations of human civilization. Along the
way, numerous news stories have explored the potential of mirror neurons and praised the
discovery. High-profile articles appeared in The New York Times (Blakeslee, 2006), CNN
(Brizendine, 2010), USNews (National Science Foundation, 2011), and ScienceDaily (Staff,
2007). Thus, perhaps unsurprisingly, mirror neurons have generated much interest across the
academic disciplines and have purportedly been ‘‘shifting the understanding of culture, empathy,
philosophy, language, autism, and psychotherapy’’ (Blakeslee, para. 11).
This article considers how mirror neuron research is incorporated by the neurodisciplines,or
new subfields looking to inform field-specific discourses, theories, and practices by applying
neuroscience findings (Johnson & Littlefield, 2011). Specifically, the aim of this article is to
understand how peer-reviewed journal articles situate and interpret mirror neuron research for
home audiences and craft persuasive cases. As such, this article looks to a case study in the field
Technical Communication Quarterly, 23: 207–226, 2014
Copyright #Association of Teachers of Technical Writing
ISSN: 1057-2252 print/1542-7625 online
DOI: 10.1080/10572252.2013.816489
of group analysis—also traditionally known as group psychotherapy—because numerous arti-
cles from that field apply and use neuroscience findings about mirror neurons and perform
the work of a new neurodiscipline.
Only two studies thus far explore how the neurosciences are situated and being put to use
within other academic disciplines. The first, by Papoulias and Callard (2010), examined how
citations are being used within critical cultural theory to ground claims about the power of
‘‘affect.’’ Papoulias and Callard found poor contextualization and serious deviations in the cultural
theory writings that reference the neuroscientific discussion about affect. The second study, by
Johnson and Littlefield (2011), explored how texts from neurophilosophy and neurosociology
draw largely from secondary sources and then situate their work as extensions of neuroscientific
facts. The Johnson and Littlefield study concluded that neuroscience research is treated as ‘‘science
itself’’ and that an epistemological priority is given to the neurosciences and solidified by position-
ing the work of the neurodisciplines as ‘‘theory-building’’ or ‘‘fact-building’’ (pp. 293–295).
Although fascinating, neither study explores the discursive moves made in texts to accommo-
date neuroscience research into existing discourses. The first study proclaims a difference
between the depiction of neuroscience in the neurosciences as compared with other depictions,
and Papoulias and Callard (2010) ended their article with a challenge to the humanities to do
better interdisciplinary research, which asked scholars to read more neuroscience and to privi-
lege the terms, frames, and categories given by the neurosciences (p. 50). The second study
examined the broader rhetorical situatedness of some neurodisciplines to critique the way neu-
roscience is understood in those disciplines as science instead of a rhetorical process operating
from meditation, negotiation, and agreement. Both existing studies looking into the use of neu-
roscience in other disciplines, then, make claims about which disciplinary perspective is preced-
ing the other—the sciences first or rhetorical theory first. They are not discussing each
discipline’s integration or process of codevelopment. In other words, these two existing studies
are not concerned with the integration of neuroscience into other fields and do not explore this
process as a strategic and rhetorical one.
In response to the lack of research into the persuasive processes of animating neuroscience for
‘‘outside’’ fields, the central question of my article is this: How is neuroscience research on mirror
neurons made compelling and useful in these fields such that articles can offer new or alternative
theories and practices? This question is pursued in terms of mirror neuron research specifically,
because of the popularity of mirror neurons and the interest it has generated across the disciplines.
Group analysis journal articles, thus, serve as a case study for engagement with this exciting
research and may resonate with other humanities or social science disciplines finding reason to
discuss ‘‘mirroring,’’ cognitive simulations, or prediction mechanisms in the brain.
In terms of methodology, the research question is explored through science and technology
studies’ (STS’s) discussion of translation across actor-networks as formulated in the works of Callon
(1986, 1999), Latour (1987, 1997, 2005), and Law (1992, 1999). This notion of translation they
develop provides rhetoric and writing scholars with an appropriate framework for studying
the processes of interdisciplinary knowledge making as exercised in the neurodisciplines. Thus,
the first section of this article lays out the text sampling method and the concept of a translation
analysis, arguing that it can effectively be used by rhetoric and writing scholars to study
neurodisciplinary writing processes and knowledge building.
Ultimately, this translation analysis shows how mirror neurons are interpreted in terms
of existing theories in the field of group analysis and are, thereby, remade while employed
specifically to support those existing theories and establish legitimization for the field. In
addition, the analysis exposes how competing neuroscientific ideas about mirror neurons can
be overlooked as an outcome of the translation process. In the end, this analysis demonstrates
that mirror neurons as well as the field of group analysis become something new—a reassembled
network with new relations. Consequently, I suggest that the reality of translation strategies—
which are in many ways necessary, pragmatic, and resourceful—provides good reason to con-
sider adoption of a multiple-ontologies philosophy about neurodisciplinary work (Mol, 2002;
Pickering, 2010). Put differently, I suggest that rhetorical scholars might forego pursuing
aneurorhetoric (Jack, 2010; Gruber, Jack, Kera¨nen, McKenzie, & Morris, 2011) interested in
defining the human brain and developing correspondence with neurobiology to advance criticism
and the field itself but, rather, see neurodisciplinary work as an inventive process of translation
having its own legitimate formations subject to its own disciplinary disassemblies and criticisms.
Six peer-reviewed journal articles self-describing with the term ‘‘mirror neurons’’ were sampled
from the field of group analysis. These articles were initially selected through a criterion-based
sampling method (Merriam, 1998) making use of the Summon database and taking into account
article content, date of publication, and journal of publication.
This overall criterion rested on
five basic assumptions. The articles needed
1. to be written after the first publication (in 1992) about mirror neurons (Di Pellegrino
et al., 1992).
2. to be centrally organized around the term mirror neurons—not merely have mention
of the term in the article, and, therefore, self-describe with that term.
3. some indication of their own level of authoritativeness: for example, for academic
articles, they needed to be peer reviewed.
4. to be widely circulated.
5. to be from the humanities or social sciences, fields in which arguing for using neu-
roscience research would likely be necessary.
Consequently, the researcher chose the Summon database due to its ability to search journals
across all the academic disciplines with a criteria set to full-text, peer-reviewed, academic
articles only, self-describing with the term ‘‘mirror neurons’’ and published between January
1, 1992, and January 1, 2011, using the search term ‘‘mirror neurons’’ to locate relevant
possibilities. In the end, the search yielded 394 results.
To understand which humanities and social science disciplines were discussing mirror neurons,
the initial sample of articles was divided by the academic discipline most closely identified with
the parent journal, for example, an article titled ‘‘Making Sense of Mirror Neurons’’ and
published in the journal Synthese was identified with philosophy, and an article titled ‘‘The Role
of Mirror Neurons in Processing Vocal Emotions: Evidence from Psychophysiological Data’’
and published in the International Journal of Neuroscience was identified with the neuros-
ciences. All disciplines not associated with the humanities or social sciences—for example,
robotics, computer science, biology—were eliminated. Ultimately, five disciplinary categories
were established across 69 remaining articles.
Along with several other fields—including childhood education, child psychology, dance
therapy, and phenomenology—group analysis demonstrated repeated uptake of mirror neuron
research in home journals, and those articles all sought to do something in the field. That is, once
disciplinary category codes were established, article titles and abstracts were reviewed. Group
analysis articles proved to be a good case study because they applied the mirror neuron research
and argued for the relevance of mirror neurons to the field and its history. In other words, Group
analysis articles became ideal candidates for a discussion of rhetorical textual strategies used
when neurobiological findings needed to be shown to be relevant to a home field before being
Rhetoric or writing studies may not obviously state why a translation analysis from actor-network
theory (ANT) in STS would be a more appropriate qualitative method of inquiry than, say,
a metaphoric criticism or a framing analysis or an analysis of ‘‘depiction’’ as presented by Osborn
(1986). However, as rhetorical scholar Besel (2011) noted, ‘‘ANT scholars borrowed from rhe-
torical theory to understand the internal workings of science,’’ and Latour’s (1997) establishment
of ANT rests on arguing that ‘‘scientists attempt to convince others that their particular theory is
better than others’ through the use of rhetoric, laboratories, and scientific ‘black boxes’’’ (Besel,
p. 123). In other words, drawing on aspects of ANT as a foundation for a rhetorical framework
first means adopting a rhetorical perspective. Indeed, ANT’s approach to scientific processes is,
in Besel’s words, so ‘‘innovative’’ precisely because it centers rhetorical processes; ANT
abandoned ‘‘all a priori assumptions about how science worked’’ and instead favored a view
focused on the actual practices of science, seeing the defense of ‘‘good science’’ and ‘‘bad
science,’’ of ‘‘right theory’’ and ‘‘wrong theory’’ as dependent on argument and material arrange-
ments, which remain central to rhetorical investigation (pp. 123–124). Latour (1987) has described
ANT as following in the tradition of rhetoric in the sense that it explores persuasion (pp. 30, 97).
But seeing ANT as providing any kind of a rhetorical framework means more than looking at
how scientists craft persuasive cases for their research. Adopting ANT means deprivileging
human rhetors in analyzing the processes of persuasion. It requires thinking about the ways
heterogeneous collections of humans and nonhumans (e.g., texts, objects, technologies) come
together in certain circumstances to forge relations through discourse and material integrations
and dependencies and, thereby, build ‘‘networks’’ through the establishment of those relations
and then proceed to recruit additional ‘‘allies’’ into the network to strengthen it (Latour, 1997,
p. 180). And this is a prime reason for adopting ANT, especially for this current study. ANT
requires adopting the premise that networks do not ‘‘have well-established boundaries’’ (Callon
& Law, 1997, p. 170) but are unstable and happen because things in the world, people included,
rely on each other or must turn to each other to change or do work, thereby, congealing, if even
for a moment, into what ANT describes as networks that can be mapped and analyzed while
undergoing development. Another way of putting this might be to say that ANT argues that dis-
course, personal relationships, and technical materials and practices codevelop. In sum, the
researcher taking this general stance should not necessarily assume that one actor has more
agency than any other in the development of any particular network. Although this concept is
new to the rhetorical tradition, it effectively augments a more traditional rhetorical analysis.
Privileging a rhetor crafting a message for a purpose and then attributing any change to the
symbolic forms constructed by the sole rhetor is a traditional practice in rhetorical studies. Gunn
(2006) noted that rhetoric remains largely human-centric to the extent that it adopts Sartre’s
humanist existential philosophy, which suggests human beings are the primary and most
valuable subjects of inquiry and that they construct their world through action. Gunn stated,
The humanist orientation in rhetorical theory is reflected well in the many discussions of the ethical
responsibility of rhetorical choice-making. ... Many of the notable ‘‘turns’’ in rhetorical studies
from the late 1960s onward are, sometimes unwittingly, built on the notion of a self-transparent
rhetor=artist who makes rhetorical choices that entail a tremendous responsibility. (p. 80)
Although rhetorical scholars such as Ballif (1998) have tried to move beyond this human-centric
approach and have asserted the need to escape ‘‘illusionary’’ dichotomous logics such as active=
passive and rhetor=audience to account for the role of nonhuman materiality in the processes of
continual change (p. 64), the pathway to doing so, perhaps especially in the rhetorical tradition,
is not always clear. In fact, ANT’s non-human-centric solution to studying the processes of
change might be muddy for rhetoricians from the start because ANT did not originally develop
as a rhetorical theory; it emerged from STS and sociology and thus remains riddled with speci-
alty terms outside of the rhetorical vocabulary. Employing the language of actors, networks,
enrollment, and alliances may seem odd or incompatible with a language focused traditionally
on rhetors, audiences, appeals, claims, exigencies, and goals.
Although the long history of rhetoric and the precise terminology it has developed cannot and
should not necessarily be immediately revised to accommodate ANT, nothing about the approach
disallows its enactment as rhetorical text analysis.
This enactment is, in part, evidenced by
Swarts’s (2011) use of ANT and translation to understand literacy through transcribing interviews
with technical communicators (p. 279). But this is doable because ANT, and specifically a trans-
lation analysis, pays attention to human and nonhuman actors and, concurrently, to the construc-
tion of agency. In other words, actors can be identified as actors partially because agency, as
rhetorical scholars have noted, is constructed (Herndl & Licona, 2007; Miller, 2007), and this
construction can, and often does, take place in texts insofar as ‘‘agency’’ refers to how specific
people or things (actors in ANT terms) become important and make a difference through gaining
‘‘authoritative relations’’ (Graham, 2009) and, as a result, have ‘‘kinetic energy’’ (Miller) and must
be heeded by others. Further, there is a precedent for applying ANT to texts because many STS
scholars rely heavily, if not solely, on texts to develop an ANT analysis (see Besel, 2011; Law &
Callon, 1992; Misa, 1992; Star & Griesemer, 1989), while others look to both texts and ethno-
graphic observations in the field or the laboratory (Latour, 1997; Mol, 2002).
What ANT demands is the scholar’s attention to the nonhuman during the process of analysis.
Thus, what receives the analysis is not the intentions or maneuvers of an author of a text, per se,
but how the actors in the texts are active because of their relations and because of how they are
positioned as important and how they require rearrangement. This emphasis is because the
author is also an actor-network—for example, of pen, paper, appropriate writing practices,
journal editors, citation requirements, professional relationships, methodological steps, techno-
logically produced data. The agency of the individual author in writing a text, in other words,
is itself located inside of and emerging from within an actor-network that must negotiate other
actor-networks, of which the text becomes more like a trail of what has been left behind by the
confluence of actor-networks colliding and combining.
Following this perspective, the ANT concept of translation, specifically, can be taken as
a useful rhetorical framework for studying texts because it describes the way in which ‘‘different
claims, substances, or processes are equated with one another’’ (Callon & Law, 1982, p. 619)
and details ‘‘the interpretation given by the fact-builders of their interests and that of the people
[or things] they enroll’’ (Latour, 1997, p. 108). In fact, Doorewaard and Van Bijsterveld (2001)
described translation in a way that resonates with rhetorical scholars when they call it ‘‘an
ongoing process of meaning transformation’’ (p. 61). Smith, Rose, and Hamilton (2010) made
a similar statement: ‘‘The process of translation involves negotiations among human and
non-human actors=actants which serves to define their interests and actions in the network’’
(p. 505). Callon (1986), who is credited with the fullest development of translation, stated that
translation is a general process ‘‘during which the identity of actors, the possibility of interaction
and the margins of manoeuvre[,] are negotiated and delimited’’ (p. 6). In other words, translation
is essentially about rhetorical processes of constructing agents, defining who or what has support
and who or what can do work and continue to do work. From a rhetorical perspective, the
processes of translation can be studied in person—through ethnography or the observational
practices of a material rhetoric—or through the textual traces of actors forging alliances and
‘‘defining their interests’’ across documents (Smith et al., 2010, p. 505).
To develop a translation analysis that explores how neuroscience research is made suitable to
the work of nonneuroscience fields and rearranges existing networks, I turn to peer-reviewed
journal articles as the primary and most important sites wherein this is accomplished. Thus, I
bracket all actors—human and nonhuman—as discursive constructions. In this way, I am able
to highlight how human and nonhuman actors bridge divides between disciplines and make
a difference to the development of a field of study. In the end, I discuss the implications for group
analysis and explore how a translation analysis from ANT reveals the need to adopt a multiple-
ontologies perspective (see Gad & Jenson, 2010; Graham & Herndl, 2013; Mol, 2002; Pickering,
2010) of neuroscience and neurodisciplinary work in rhetoric and writing studies.
For Callon (1986), translation occurs across four moments. These moments describe what
happens when networks undergo change, incorporating and (re)arranging actors (p. 196). The
moments are as follows:
.problematization—when actors become indispensible to other actors in the network by
defining the nature of the problem to be discussed
.interessement—when actors lock other actors into defined roles through any available
means to solve the problem
.enrollment—when actors interrelate the roles they allocated to solidify a scaffold of support
.mobilization—when actors protect and ensure the new network arrangement so as not to
be betrayed, often by moving it out into the world where it becomes the new standard or
a new model of practice (p. 196).
Examining the four moments of translation exposes how there is a particular reality to mirror
neurons in a field that depends largely on the textual practices and material arrangements made
to bring them into appearance and make them persuasive. For group analysis, the process is as
follows: A small set of field-specific researchers establish the problem of needing the neuros-
ciences and become an obligatory passage point for understanding the meaning and significance
of mirror neurons, and as a result, mirror neurons translate into a literal mirroring process
familiar to the field and reflect the unique psychotherapeutic history of the field. The reality
ultimately constructed by group analysis is one in which mirror neurons become inextricable
from the mirror metaphor in group analysis and validate theories and practices of well-respected
researchers now (re)situating group analysis.
More specifically, this translation happens as a process wherein the problem of mirror
neurons is positioned as not a problem for the field; rather, mirror neurons expose a problem
of wanting and needing quantitative evidence from the brain sciences (problematization) to
support its existing theories and practices. The neuroscience finding is, thus, made compatible
with the field (interessement) through a defined set of field-specific psychoanalytic theorists
of the mirror, and their explicit interpretation of what mirror neurons are is then supported by
interrelating the brain and particular ideas about brain function as an actor (enrollment), situating
psychoanalytic descriptions as neuroscientific facts. The moment of mobilization happens amid
an ensuing discussion of the current state of therapeutic practice and what mirror neurons can
now mean for therapists and for the field.
Moment 1: Problematization
The positioning of specific researchers as guides to understanding the field of group analysis
persuades readers to subscribe to a particular conception of the field as one intrinsically and
inseparably built from the mirror metaphor and, thereby, compatible with the mirror neurons
of the neurosciences. This enables neuroscience to be a confirmation of group analysis, or put
conversely, this enables group analysis researchers to interpret the neuroscience finding in
a favorable way. In Callon’s (1986) terms, the foregrounding of these human actors in group
analysis is the moment of problematization, when certain actors are positioned so as to define
the problem and become indispensible to a new network of group analysis that is now under
formation (p. 196).
This problematization can be seen in Schermer’s (2010) Group Analysis article, ‘‘Reflections on
‘Reflections on Mirroring.’’’ There, he discussed the importance of mirror neurons for group analy-
sis, saying that the finding ‘‘affords an obvious parallel’’ (p. 221) to Pines’s (1984) interpersonal
mirroring of behaviors in group therapy sessions, which are designed to develop emotional
attunement between group members. That an empirical, neurobiological finding affords an ‘‘obvious
parallel’’ to psychoanalytic therapy is an early indicator that the human researchers discussed as
representatives of group analysis provide a framework of interpretation for mirror neurons.
Indeed, Schermer wrote, ‘‘The prescience of Malcolm’s views on mirroring is thus highlighted
by the fact that only a few years afterwards, neurons were discovered that perform some of the
very functions he described. In effect, mirror neurons are the ‘mirrors-in-the-brain’’’ (p. 222).
Here, Schermer situated mirror neurons as an equivalent to the theorized behavioral mirroring
explored by Pines in his article ‘‘Reflections on Mirroring.’’ Schermer later stated,
Malcolm [Pines]’s ‘‘Reflections on Mirroring’’ takes us on a journey ‘‘through the looking glass.’’ It
awakens us to the intersubjective state in which we recognize ourselves in each other in a direct
and vivid way, as if looking into a mirror. Malcolm shows us how we are not only alienated in
a Lacanian mirror stage, we also grow, develop, and achieve mature personhood through the mirror’s
reflections. (p. 224)
In this last comment, the phrase ‘‘the mirror’s reflections’’ refers both to the way Pines sug-
gested that human psychological development is largely dependent on how individuals perceive
themselves being reflected back by others while also referring intertextually to mirror neurons
as the explanation for why Pines was right about his theory in the first place. Thus, setting
up the passage with a reference to fairy tales in which characters peer ‘‘through the looking
glass’’ suggested that seeing a facial reflection is also a seeing throughness to the self in which
personality—whether the charity or vanity animated in Snow White or in Alice and Wonderland—is
reflected back at the viewer because of mirror neurons.
In another group analysis article, Wolf, Gales, Shane, and Shane (2001) ‘‘try to show how the
mirror neuron system might be involved in a developmental sequence hypothesized by Kohut
(1984), Stern (1985), and others to begin in infancy’’ (p. 95). Wolfe, Gales, Shane and Shane
(2001) argued that mirror neurons act as a ‘‘primitive dialogue’’ in the brain between self and other,
wherein gestures trigger affective resonance, which allows for the eventual development of mutual
understanding and empathy. The mediation of work by Kohut and Stern as a way to situate mirror
neurons and their importance is most evident in a passage in which Wolf et al. stated, ‘‘Let’s begin
with Stern. He describes a process he calls affect attunement. ... ‘affect attunement’ may be a term
that names, as a separate process, an ongoing developmental [mirror neuron] process already in
place’’ (p. 102). Mirror neurons are positioned here as potentially explanatory to Stern’s observa-
tions, just with different language and at a lower level of processing. Wolfe et al., in short, explained
mirror neurons by turning to Stern’s discussion of the infant, making affect attunement the ultimate
end product of mirror neuron functioning that stands at the core of understanding others.
In this way, specific group analysis researchers become what Latour (1987) called ‘‘obliga-
tory passage points’’ (p. 182). For Latour, weather stations are ‘‘obligatory for everyone who
wants to know the weather. If they [weather stations] are successful, they will become the only
official mouthpiece of the earth’s weather’’ (p. 182). Likewise, group analysis researchers are, in
these articles, the official mouthpieces of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons thus are known
through them.
All articles sampled from group analysis argued that mirror neurons validate psychoanalytic
theorists of the mirror by showing how the new science of the brain bolsters their theories. That
is, their theories, because of mirror neurons, can now be seen as explanatory to human behavior.
Schermer (2010) made this explicit when he stated,
The shortcoming of the mirror metaphor for analytic understanding is that it is so experience-near
to the quasi-magical qualities of attachment, empathy and attunement that, as a metaphor that
emphasizes a ‘‘glance’’ or a ‘‘look,’’ it does not sufficiently allude to the countless learned repetitions
and variations that are required to build the sinewy ‘‘muscle’’ of interpersonal relations. (p. 220)
For Schermer, the notion of the existence of mirror neurons pick up the slack of the mirror meta-
phor in group analysis insofar as the neurosciences now go further and explain why the practices
of mirroring others works. The neuroscience also extends the notion of attunement that Pines
(1984) developed from reading Foulkes and Anthony’s (1973) and Stern’s (1985) empathetic
attunement between mother and child such that the neuroscience lengthens the previous emphasis
on the developmental power of internalizing ‘‘a look’’ to the whole of human behavior. In this
way, mirror neurons, when compared with the mirror of Lacan’s ‘‘mirror stage’’ (Schermer,
2010), become an ocular-central core of all possibilities for human psychological development.
In Callon’s (1986) terms, this arrangement of actors performs a moment of problematization
that allows specific entities to speak for group analysis as a field and to define the problem that
the field confronts with new neuroscientific research into mirror neurons. Indeed, the potential
problem faced with the popularity of new neuroscience research set as an ultimate explanatory
mechanism for human behavior is not one of reconsideration for group analysis when
researchers must revise their field-specific theories; rather, by centralizing past theorists of the
mirror and by making them obligatory passage points, the problem becomes one of confirmation
and extension. This confirmation and extension is the contribution of mirror neurons to the
field of group analysis.
Moment 2: Interessement
Through assigning actors roles and interrelating them, group analysis researchers become inter-
ested in mirror neurons; meanings and associations are upheld as mutual and entwined. In an
article by Pisani (2010), mirror neurons confirm that Pines’s (1984) use of mirroring facial
expressions and gestures in the practices of group analysis were, in fact, significant contributions
now retrospectively confirmed by the neurosciences. Pisani stated,
Mirror neurons complete and give a neurobiological foundation to the mirror phenomenon in Group
Analysis. They are essential for the sharing of human experiences. ... It should also be noted that the
resonance phenomenon finds its neurobiological bases in the neural mirror system: [quoting Pines]
‘‘Resonance behaviours can be seen as supporting the development of gestural communication,
language and other aspects of social relating.’’ (p. 332)
In this passage, mirror neurons give a new ‘‘foundation’’ to mirroring in group analysis even
though the central claim is set up, both before and after, by quotations from Pines, not from cog-
nitive neuroscientists researching mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are assigned the role of being
new evidence that confirms a reality in group analysis, but the passage also shows how the
theorists who center mirroring practices speak for group analysis when the field interprets the
meaning of the biology of mirror neurons. The field-specific researchers operate as actors
who lock the interests of neuroscience, mirror neurons, and the field into place. Notable figure-
heads, already associated with the idea of a mirror and already important and real to the field, are
thus able to fold mirror neurons into the reality of their network.
In a similar translational process, in an article entitled ‘‘Empathy and Group Analysis:
An Integrative Approach,’’ Nava (2007) correlated the science of mirror neurons with Kohut’s
(1984) view of empathy, making Nava a spokesperson for mirror neurons. He accomplished this
first by describing Kohut’s view of empathy as ‘‘the ability to penetrate, by means of thought
and feeling, into the other person’s inner life’’ (p. 15) and then by explaining how neuroscien-
tific work by Decety et al. (1997) argued that empathy follows a model of perception-action
in line with Kohut’s view of empathy. Nava argued that the Decety et al. work confirmed
Kohut’s insofar as it showed that empathy originates as an affective innate sharing between self
and other that becomes conscious and causes a subjective adoption of the other’s mental states.
Nava wrote:
Through the model of perception–action, we know that there are shared representations between
the patient’s emotions and the analyst’s respective neuronal circuits. In other words, the patient’s
emotion is mirrored, through the mirror neuron, in the neuronal circuits that codify the same emotion
in the analyst. (p. 20)
Here, the initial psychotherapeutic description following from Kohut’s (1984) work was
restated through the language of ‘‘neuronal circuits’’ and completely replaced in the second
sentence by the mirror neuron explanation. Also, Nava (2007) declared what ‘‘we know’’ from
neuroscience to be what has already been known and explicitly stated by Kohut, so the new
neuroscience evidence suggests it is known in a new way known or further known.
Yet, we can maintain that Nava (2007) jumps from mirror neuron studies to the claim that
people have ‘‘shared representations,’’ which would equate to mirror neurons constituting
a direct neuronal simulation that correlates between two people, a thesis that has been hotly con-
tested (Cisbra, 2005; Jacob, 2008; Lingnau, Gesierich, & Caramazza, 2009; Turella, Pierno,
Tubaldi, & Castiello, 2009; Umilta` et al., 2001). On another level, however, the jump makes
complete sense for her work and for the field in establishing alignment between mirror neurons
and mirror theories. Whatever one’s view of the interpretation, the long and short of this transla-
tional outcome is that Foulkes and Anthony (1973), Stern (1985), Pines (1984), and Kohut
(1984) (re)assembled neuroscience work on mirror neurons, resulting in a specific kind of
interpretation of mirror neuron functioning and purpose. The neuroscience acts as a broad scaf-
fold of support for theory close to the field. Consequently, separating the mirror from the mirror
neuron or the mirror behavior from the mirror neuron—or the ‘‘mirrored’’ feelings that patients
might have in group sharing from the biological mirror neuron—eventually becomes close to
impossible. Arguably, the mirror neuron, as biological artifact, becomes propositionally
a physical mirror, or at least becomes definitionally integrated with the properties of a mirror
in the mirror metaphor so common in theorizing the usefulness of imitating behaviors.
The last quote by Nava (2007) shows how the logic of the mirror neuron follows the logic of
the everyday, literal mirror that one might have in the home. Nava stated, ‘‘The patient’s emo-
tion is mirrored, through the mirror neuron, in the neuronal circuits that codify the same emotion
in the analyst’’ (p. 20). The mirror neuron is imagined as reflecting back an exact reflection like
a mirror. At this moment of interessement, the mirror neuron is united with mirroring the actions
of patients like a reflection, becoming evidence for an idea central to the group analysis research-
ers such as Kohut (1984) and Pines (1984), who are organizing the new network being formed.
At this point, we should note that the association of mirror neurons with the mirror theories and
mirroring behavior practices of group analysis, or with an actual mirror, is not automatic. Defined
through other means or interrelated with other sources, mirror neurons are easily dislocated from
an association with these conceptions. Rather, they have been treated as nonexistent in humans
(Turella et al., 2009), as predictive mechanisms (Jacob, 2008) or as ways to understand
what people are doing (Cisbra, 2005; Hickok, 2009) and have also been shown not to fire all
the time but only in specific cases (Lohmar, 2006; Umilta` et al., 2001). Only the interessement
of researchers like Kohut (1984) and Pines (1984) stabilizes the new network. In short, defining
these actors’ positions allows the reality of mirror neurons, as group analysis mirrors, to take hold.
I am not suggesting that Nava (2007) did not put forward evidence for this logic of correlation
between two different brains. To the contrary, Nava cited several mirror neuron studies. She
cited Clark, Tremblay, and Ste-Marie (2003), Decety et al. (1997), Decety, Chaminade, Grezes,
and Meltzoff (2002), Fadiga, Fogassi, Pavesi, and Rizzolatti(1995), Iacoboni et al. (1999), and
Ruby and Decety (2001) and then stated, ‘‘On the whole, the representations shared between the
self and the other at a cortical level were found at the level of comprehension, pain processing
and recognition of the emotions’’ (p. 18). Here, her article draws conclusions that have been
drawn by the neuroscientists and with good reason to do so. But the view is also a rhetorical
choice inextricable from a process of translation. That translation is the focus here. In other
words, group analysis articles like Nova’s frequently follow a pattern of using studies completed
on monkeys that show some motor neuron responses in relation to specific kinds of actions
while choosing to interpret the firing responses as ‘‘mirroring’’ and not as something else,
like ‘‘simulating’’ or ‘‘predicting’’ (Cisbra, 2005; Jacob, 2008; Turella et al., 2009). Consequently,
the conclusion seems logical—that the mirror theorists mediating the discussion heavily influence
the choice. This discussion is the heart of translation—how new ideas and objects are made
persuasive to a new audience.
Moment 3: Enrollment
This discussion raises the question of how enrollment works in the translational process.
As group analysis incorporates mirror neurons by turning to field-specific theorists, the idea
of brains and what they do is enrolled for support. An emphasis on brains works rhetorically
in these texts to validate the field’s conceptions without the burden or necessity of having to
review many highly technical and complex mirror neuron studies.
The enrollment of brains as actors that do work in this burgeoning new network within group
analysis is witnessed in the recurrence of passages that repeatedly invoke the brain with few or
no relevant citations. Saying what the brain is and does functions to support the network and
guard against other interpretations of mirror neurons that might undo their easy translation into
the field. Discursively situating the brain into a support role solidifies the network as it has been
(re)arranged and ensures a successful translation of the neuro into the field.
We can see this in passages in which the brain is stated, in an unqualified way, as conclus-
ively X, but the claims about the interpretation given through group analysis researchers are
qualified. This movement from certainty to qualification allows the brain —not the group analy-
sis researchers themselves—to be the evidence for establishing the alignments between mirror
neurons and group analysis. Although group analysis researchers are ‘‘interessed’’ in mirror neu-
rons, the evidence for the appropriateness of that interessement is the brain. This avoids group
analysis researchers’ own self-confirmation.
In an article by Pines (2003), the brain and one neuroscience researcher Freeman were
situated as the actors in a back and forth movement with no formal citations:
According to Freeman, each brain has a private language, but each is also a unit in society. He asserts
that the very basic structure of the brain, the neuropil, has what he calls an intentional structure, by
which he means ‘‘the process of a brain in action, having the properties of unity, wholeness and
intent, which is the tension of taking in by stretching forth.’’ Brains shape themselves to accord with
the input they get by acting into the world. ... From his researches, Freeman asserts that brains are
creative, that the basic brain structure, the neuropil actively stretches forth in search of input. Brains
are designed by the environment as agents for social construction. (p. 509)
The brain here was quite literally an actor, and one might suggest a degree of anthropomorphism
in the passage. Also noteworthy is that no citation appeared in this passage. One citation from
Freeman did appear—but not within or after the passage. These observations point out
translational processes. What Freeman said about brains and their condition of always shaping
themselves and incorporating the environment establishes support for an interpretation of mirror
neurons as always functioning like a mirror, seemingly proving that brains are, essentially,
mirrors. Neuroscience citations need not be used. For the field, this may be acceptable and
sufficient; it may even be preferable to avoid too much neuroscience talk or too many primary
citations. But doing so around discussion of the brain also facilitates a translation strategy. This
lack of reliance on citations happens in other articles as well. Pisani (2010), for instance, entered
into a long discussion of the brain with no citations to neuroscience sources, instead quoting
Pines. Pisani wrote,
In [Pines’] ‘‘Neurobiology and Group Analysis’’: ‘‘The brain is a social organ; neural networks are
formed by the interaction of organism and environment; the brain is a social organ dedicated to
receiving, processing and communicating messages across the ‘social synapse’’’; the right brain
develops first, organizes and stores many social and emotional experiences: shared unconscious
dialogues. Left brain is biased to positive emotions, the right to negative. ... Mirror neurons live
at crossroad of processing of inner and outer experience. (p. 332)
In this passage, the brain is and does many undisputed things, and the brain rather than citations
does the rhetorical work of legitimization. The brain, in some ways, seems to trump argumen-
tation from sources.
As Johnson and Littlefield (2011) noted, these crossdisciplinary explorations tend to treat
neuroscience studies ‘‘as science itself’’ (p. 295)—as an objective and unproblematic entity.
But a close reading of the group analysis articles demonstrates that those recognitions that group
analysis interpretations are preliminary are not juxtaposed with sources providing alternative
explanations of mirror neurons or of the brain. If one reviews the neuroscience sources used
across all sampled articles, only two are shared in common, and those are early, founding
mirror neuron studies—Fadiga et al. (1995) and Gallese, Fadiga, Fogassi and Rizzolatti
(1996). Both these studies came before the important recognition that mirror neurons only
fire in specific cases (Umilta` et al., 2001). Further, no sources used in any group analysis
article recognize any debates or contentions about mirror neurons. The mediation of the
neuroscience through the lens of behavioral mirroring reigns supreme, while appeals to the brain
do some evidential work.
It is valuable here to note that appeals to the brain as a closed, unproblematic black box have
already proven persuasive. For example, Weisberg, Keil, Goodstein, Rawson, & Gray (2008)
documented the ‘‘seductive allure’’ of the brain, revealing that completely irrelevant neu-
roscience information inserted into passages about a psychological phenomenon disrupt logical
evaluation and ‘‘may encourage people to believe they have received a scientific explanation
when they have not’’ (p. 470). From their study, Weisberg et al. concluded that, ‘‘because
articles in both the popular press and scientific journals often focus on how neuroscientific
findings can help to explain human behavior, people’s fascination with cognitive neuroscience
can be redescribed as people’s fascination with explanations involving a neuropsychological
component’’ (p. 470). Building from this basic thesis that people’s fascination with explanations
disrupts their evaluation of claims about how exactly a neurological study evidences an
argument suggests that claims like ‘‘Brains shape themselves’’ (Pines, 2003, p. 509) and ‘‘[quot-
ing Pines] Mirror neurons live at crossroad of processing of inner and outer experience’’ (Pisani,
2010, p. 332) do not need citations or explicit argumentation—they may only need to explain the
situation at hand.
This is not to suggest that the authors in group analysis intentionally fill their articles with refer-
ences to brains and brain functions to disrupt readers’ logical processes. This is merely to suggest
that the articles remain persuasive even though they use few neuroscience citations. This per-
suasion may happen for any number of reasons. One possibility, as Weisberg et al. (2008) pointed
out, is that appeals to the brain are persuasive when positioned as explanations of psychological
processes. Further, Weisberg et al. suggested that the brain and mirror neurons might be better left
black-boxed—their precise functioning left opaque—if they are going to support existing concep-
tions of group analysis. What is important, in other words, is what these phenomena are—‘‘social
organs’’—as well as what they do—‘‘shape,’’ ‘‘connect,’’ and ‘‘live.’’ That seems to be the
primary importance to the field. In this way, the brain as an actor functions like ‘‘a piece of
machinery or a set of commands that is too complex’’ (Latour, 1987, p. 3); thus, brains are able
to become actors in the discussion in a way that is truly meaningful to a nonneuroscience field.
But neurodisciplinary translations may not only present specific findings or views of the
brain; they may also inadvertently distance other work in the home field. For instance, in the
tradition of group analysis, some analysts are focusing on forming and addressing the group
as a whole and do not focus on the individual—such as Holzman (2006) and Newman and
Holzman (1997). Additionally, Yalom (2005) listed imitating behaviors as only one of 11
common traditions in group analysis. All in all, a moment of enrollment narrows the possibilities
for interpretation when mirror neurons are moved into group analysis.
Moment 4: Mobilization
Four of the articles in the group analysis sample ended with a discussion section in which the
implications for therapeutic practice are discussed. What proves interesting about this section
is the way that it is written. Crafted in the interpersonal ‘‘we’’ voice, the text interpellated its
audience as in agreement with the discussion and approaching it from the same perspective
as the article. In this way, the text positioned the discussion as a new orientation of the
field—as what the neuroscience leads researchers to likely conclude. For example, Wolfe
et al. wrote,
But as analysts, apart from serving as case coordinators for such a complex treatment, our
understanding of mirror neuron functioning might lead us to conclude that intervening at the level
of gesture, both facially and manually, would be of primary importance. This would support
a therapeutic focus that concentrates on gestures as having meaning. By persistent practice of such
social interchange, there could be an enhancement of the mirror neuron system. We will attempt to
illustrate the likely operation of the mirror neuron system in an autistic patient. (p. 107)
In this example, what ‘‘our’’ collective understanding ‘‘might lead us to conclude’’ is the
importance of a new form of practice whose efficacy is demonstrated through a subsequent
performance of therapeutic work with an autistic child. Here, the personal experience of
a therapist performing new group analysis practices with a real-life patient evidences a con-
ception of mirror neurons developed from what ‘‘Kohut speculated’’ (p. 108) and, in turn,
suggested that interpersonal practice confirms ‘‘our’’ suspicions and what ‘‘we’’ should probably
start doing.
Similarly, Pines (2003) used the interpersonal voice to position his interpretation of mirror
neurons as shared and to move it out into the world of practice. He stated,
You will recall that Foulkes described resonance as the individual responses that group members
make to shared events, each responding at their own level of attunement to the predominant affect
in the group. We [analysts, broadly speaking] study the individual responses that are made to a shared
event. ... On the psychodynamic level, we can observe responses of mirroring and resonance and of
non-mirroring and non-resonance in participants in small groups. (p. 512)
In other words, Pines argued that what the analyst sees in the group dynamic is the function-
ing of mirror neurons, and he further argued that the role of the analyst should, as a result, be to
view the patients as good working mirrors or as non-resonant dim reflectors. He stated, ‘‘In the
analytic group, non-resonance can progress to resonance, non-mirroring to mirroring’’ (p. 512).
For him, this is the goal of the analyst. Equating perceptions of a patient’s emotional resonance
to ‘‘mirroring behaviors’’ and then equating those behaviors to mirror neurons may lead to
significant insights or practices. Yet, Pines also engaged in what Johnson (2008) called a ‘‘bio-
social’’ articulation, in which biological terms are deployed to stand in for social behaviors such
that saying someone is ‘‘cingulate’’ communicates a disorder (pp. 149–150). This might be seen
as an example of taking the translation process too literally or too far.
Put simply, Pines (2003) sought to make the practice of being a group analyst something that
is directly corresponded to and informed by the neurosciences. Thus, the conception of group
analysis that he advanced performs a moment of mobilization as it becomes a practice, a model,
a way of instructing the analyst to see the patient. Here, the translational process rotates around
full circle: The neuroscience is first interpreted in terms of prominent mirror theorists known
to the field; it then confirms their theories and practices; and it is, at the end of the cycle, used
as evidence for a stronger focus on mirroring behaviors and for organizing the work of the
analyst around measuring the mirror-ness of people conceptualized as mirrors. This process
reaffirms and potentially balloons the importance of thinking about the mirror in the practice
of diagnosing a patient’s condition, moving the translation of mirror neurons into the larger
world as a new standard model and concretizing the new actor-network of group analysis
assembled in these articles.
In addition, when these concluding practical discussion sections are placed contextually—that
is, after the article sets up the importance of the neurosciences as new evidence for a phenom-
enon that has been traditionally studied and accepted through the subjective accounts of analysts
in the group setting—they effectively communicate that the value of the analyst’s perspective is
not obviated by the neurosciences. The language of ‘‘us’’ and ‘‘we’’ suggests that the analyst
still interprets the group setting. Valid forms of knowing commonly used and close to the field
remain valued.
Nava (2007) made this explicit, ending her article by saying,
We cannot expect our analyst, our supervisor and the literature to do all the work to discover our faults.
There is a very important amount of personal work to be done. ... Our own clinical investigation
provides us with the data with which we can deduce new theoretical conceptualizations. (p. 26)
So, although the neurosciences help group analysis to understand psychological phenomena
better and to provide new and important evidence, the coming together of the two fields does
not replace the necessity for interpersonal reflection and subjective knowing. In ANT terms, this
further secures the new network by protecting the values of the analyst, by eliminating that
possible contention, and by simultaneously moving the discussion of mirror neurons out into
the field as it is traditionally practiced. This recognition of the analyst elevates the role of the
analyst even as it attempts to solidify a new model built through relying on the significance
and meaning of mirror neurons.
In translating mirror neurons into a new domain, articles from group analysis engage a rhetorical
process wherein actors arrange to move some new entity—mirror neurons—into the actor-
network in a way that continues existing discourses. From the articles analyzed here, actors
translate mirror neurons in terms of the field in a way that also reflects aspects of the field’s
history, respects its researchers, and fills its epistemological needs. Specifically, human actors
close to the field—theorists of the mirror—interpret mirror neurons through preexisting
ideas about human development and mirroring behaviors while also defining the field of group
analysis as one primarily or solely about mirroring. All this exists, on some level, as an effort to
bolster and validate the field with a new kind of solid evidence.
This translation-based analysis starts to reveal the ‘‘how’’ of persuading fields to buy into
neurodisciplinary work and may indicate a pattern of setting up field-familiar spokespersons
as passage points for interpreting neurobiological phenomena. This analysis also may indicate
a larger pattern of setting up the neurosciences as a means of explanation and legitimization
for existing theories and practices that remain marginalized or have not yet been able to draw
on the materialist evidence of the brain. For all the evidencing the neurosciences do, though,
they might ultimately best evidence their own hierarchical position in the university and a feeling
of subordination and insecurity of other fields drawing on their allure and popularity.
With that said, this study is limited in the claims it can make about neurodisciplinary patterns
of translation simply by scope and design. It is unclear what other translation strategies might
exist in other fields. Even so, this study can suggest that the neurosciences might not always
appear in other disciplines in a flash with radical changes; that is, the neurosciences might
not always be situated in neurodisciplinary work as a way to burst forth wholly new and
inventive ideas. Rather, if group analysis is any indicator, then it seems much more likely that
neuroscience work is, to some extent, subordinated to the interested field, presented as in align-
ment with established theorists or interests, and so defined specifically and narrowly. Despite the
fact that neuroscience might be perceived as doing the new, exciting work for a field of study,
the translation process explored here suggests that the neurosciences might also sometimes be
marginalized to do the work that the field can do. The translation process requires bridges to
existing conversations, a cogent exigence, and a deep and meaningful integration, and those
factors may alter the neuroscience accordingly.
Indeed, this textual study situates disciplinary knowledge making in journal articles as
a coherence-making process that operates through discursive practices and negotiates translation
in a way that remains acceptable to the translating field. Mirror neurons move along with the remak-
ing of fields. But if this study suggests that fields show a tendency to make mirror neurons into some
kind of mirror image of themselves as they enact translation, then it also suggests that many
neurodisciplinary fields may be content to remake themselves in the ways most sharply compatible
with the available neuroscience or in ways that reify specific avenues already existing in those fields.
One benefit of an ANT translation analysis, then, is the way it enriches an understanding of the
impact of situated, contextual dynamics on discussions about material realities. Therefore, I suggest
that recent interest in a theory of ‘‘multiple ontologies’’ may be able to contribute to the processes of
neurodisciplinary scholarship. Those scholars pursuing multiple ontologies (Gad & Jensen, 2010;
Graham & Herndl, 2013; Mol, 2002; Pickering, 2010) all argue, in one way or another, for
a plurality of realities rooted in and developed out of practices and ways of knowing. Although
a poststructuralist perspective is largely adopted in the humanities, a return to the sciences or a turn
to the neurosciences for evidence and legitimacy might indicate a desire for material entities to be
singularly defined or have determinate results. Multiple ontologies reject that impulse and embrace
the more radical and pragmatic idea that things come into appearance through practices and can,
therefore, be literally multiple and have multiple distributions of relations (see Graham & Herndl,
2013). This means, as Mol said, ‘‘If reality is done, if it is historically, culturally, and materially
located, then it is multiple’’ (p. 71). Entertaining this multiple-ontologies view would shift the focus
of neurodisciplinary work from finding and incorporating a singular material reality to realizing
a valid and workable field-specific reality that is situated, audience dependent, wrapped up in an
organization of texts, machines, institutions, constraints, and affordances.
If an intellectual position informed by multiple ontologies proves useful or compelling
for neurodisciplinary scholars, then good or valuable neurodisciplinary work would likely be
located within the range of the interested field, its practices, and the researchers who evaluate
the development of new concepts. I am not saying that neurodisciplinary researchers would
not still benefit from engaging with neuroscience in quantity and in depth, from using specialty
terms carefully, and from taking into account competing ideas about findings because the field’s
translations might find new means of problematization and enrollment across a diversity of
neuroscience research, or fields might find other ways to defend a translation. In addition,
increased exposure to the neurosciences and even to other translations in other fields might help
neurodisciplinary researchers explore how their work shifts their field, plays into broader
intellectual movements, and engages the politics of disciplinary legitimacy. Whatever a field’s
course of investigation, the trick for the future of neurodisciplinary work may well be finding
ways to balance invention and persuasion while working rigorously from scientific areas
invested in particular ways of describing, seeing, and knowing.
1. The term neurodiscipline is often self-applied by fields. I am using the term to describe nonneuroscience fields
that actively incorporate neuroscience findings specifically to define or build theories and practices, regardless of
whether they self-identify this way or not.
2. Although mirror neurons are commonly said to simulate the sensed visual environment or to ‘‘mirror’’ the environ-
ment internally, some researchers argue they might not mirror at all but, rather, be predictive mechanisms (see Jacob,
2008; Lingnau, Gesierich, & Caramazza, 2009).
3. Summon database is used as the primary library search engine for a large Southeastern university in the U.S. Using
Summon, the search was applied across all disciplines and organized by relevance. Relevance is determined through
a complex algorithm that, for the Summon database—like most databases that draw on other databases, is a closely
guarded market secret. An attempt to acquire the algorithm through the university library representative was made,
and the request was denied. Nevertheless, the articles appearing in the Summon search results were compared with
the citations in the sampled articles, that is, the researcher tried to locate similar articles from that field by examining
the citations in the articles delivered by Summon to discover whether the Summon database provided those other
articles as well. The general impression of this researcher was that the Summon database provided good coverage
of articles applying mirror neurons.
4. Most of the initial 394 articles in the text sample came from the neurosciences or biology. For the purpose of writing
about one field’s close textual analysis of translation, those were thrown out of the sample.
5. Of course, close text analysis is not all rhetorical scholars do; the comment is not intended to overlook material
rhetorics or nonhuman rhetorics and considerations of bodies and affects.
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David R. Gruber is an assistant professor in the Department of English at City University of
Hong Kong. He has published in Media History, Visual Communication Quarterly, POROI, and
... Just as affective science is relying increasingly on neuroscientific methods and resources, so within CS we are seeing the emergence of a "neurodiscipline" (or more correctly here, a "neurofield") that engages neuroscience "by incorporating books of popular neuroscience into their work" (Johnson & Littlefield, 2011; see also Gruber, 2014). Indeed, as we've seen, since the mid-to late-1990s CS theorists who engage with affective science frequently turn to neuroscience-based theories such as Damasio's. ...
... Instrumentalist CS theorists will be happy informing their theories using multiple ontologies. Yet they should exercise caution when borrowing from multiple ontologies (Gruber, 2014;cf. Johnson & Littlefield, 2011;Papoulias & Callard, 2010). ...
... Johnson & Littlefield, 2011;Papoulias & Callard, 2010). Just as would their naturalist colleagues, instrumentalists would benefit from engaging deeply with scientific literature; they should respect the use of specialist terms (such as affect and perhaps emotion); and they should assess competing theories of the phenomena they wish to examine or employ in their own research (Gruber, 2014). ...
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This article reviews literature in composition studies since affective science's emergence in the 1980s. It focuses on composition studies’ history of adopting findings and theories from affective science, and distinguishes trends in how the field applies those elements in theoretical versus pedagogical contexts. While composition studies’ adoption of affective science in its theorizing has helped the field progress toward a “complete psychology of writing,” affective science's influence on classroom practices has not been so clear cut or direct. However, affective science is a fast-growing, liberal, and multidisciplinary field. As it progresses, composition studies continues to embrace its concepts and theories. This review notes the expectations and limitations developing through this dynamic interdisciplinary relationship.
... These are kinds of meditation related to but distinct from mindfulness, and are beyond the scope of this paper. and oversimplification of the literature, including that of brain imagery (e.g., Mays & Jung, 2012;Gruber, 2014). Scholars from a variety of fields in the humanities have questioned the implications of this neuro-turn, including the assumption that neuroscience automatically benefits society and education, as well as the authority often ascribed to these discourses (De Vos, 2015;Mays & Jung, 2012). ...
... I write this as a neurodisciplinary writer, and, as such, acknowledge that my analysis of brain waves is based on my training and experience as a neurofeedback assistant (2005-2010) who is not an expert in neuroscience 14 . Additionally, as David R. Gruber (2014) notes, neurodisciplinary scholars, writing primarily from their home disciplines in the humanities, engage in invention as they interpret neuroscience scholarship and discourses. ...
... Should Rhetoric and Writing programs or instructors choose to invest in neurofeedback equipment or collaborate with neurofeedback providers, they should investigate whether the technology and/or the provider lend themselves to the goals of their program. Moreover, given the authority ascribed to brain images, which are often perceived as unmediated presentations of brain activity (Mays & Jung, 2012;Gruber, 2014), instructors should make clear to their students the mediated nature of neurofeedback. This is particularly true when using "brain mirrors," which imply an unmediated reflection of one's brain. ...
Neurofeedback is a technology that allows users to observe, reflect, and learn from their brain wave activity. It is often used in conjunction with mindfulness to help people obtain a more open state of mind. While both neurofeedback and mindfulness have been employed in support of neoliberal goals, they can be used for more socially responsible ones. Specifically, when integrated with scholarship on listening, mindfulness and neurofeedback can enrich an open listening pedagogy. Open listening can be understood as a narrative fusion of horizons (Ivor Goodson & Scherto Gill, 2011). This fusion occurs when two people's narrative horizons, consisting of a set of narratives and standpoints, come together while preserving the multiplicity, fluidity, complexity, and intersectionality of each. Interdisciplinary scholarship, including neurological and biological perspectives, shows that a listener's embodied dynamics, specifically fear and attachment, contribute to closed listening, in which the listener tries to preserve the stability and fixity of their own narratives. An open listening pedagogy that incorporates mindfulness and neurofeedback responds to the need for interdisciplinary understandings of the body-social relationships that are part of closed listening. Neurofeedback and mindfulness further help students practice ways of relating to their bodies that are conducive to open listening.
... The field of the rhetoric of health and medicine seeks to understand how scientific advances are contextualized and how their promotion and discussion stages them to be used in specific ways. Scholars study, for example, how particular findings, such as "mirror neurons" from the neurosciences, have been repeatedly interpreted as simulation mechanisms, despite multiple other options; in this case, the elegant mirror metaphor as well as existing sociocultural discourses about mirroring in human development add persuasive power to the simulation interpretation, which, in turn, makes mirror neurons easier to incorporate into other fields (see Gruber, 2014Gruber, , 2016. Thus, from a rhetoric scholar's point of view, the study of a scientific phenomenon is necessarily intertwined with biological, material, and social spheres: The feelings of bodies, the practices of institutions, and the social discussions that are happening, including in documentation, are seen as coforming and, often, mutually validating. ...
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Prebiotic and probiotic products continue to experience strong consumer growth while gastroenterological researchers work behind the scenes to understand the effects of specific bacterial strains on study participants’ feelings of mind‐body healthfulness. Correlations are achieved through the use of psychometric questionnaires, which aim to measure affect states like stress, anxiety, and depression. In this paper, we turn to qualitative textual analysis to examine two commonly employed psychometric questionnaires (HAM‐D and HADS) used in studies of the same probiotic formulation. We show how concepts of social deviance and norms of behavior (e.g., sleep patterns, social life, and work productivity) inform such questionnaires, thus inserting normative ethical imperatives into clinical findings. After demonstrating several key disjunctions across these questionnaires, we develop recommendations for gastroenterological researchers. In particular, we recommend that researchers give more focused attention to aligning psychometric questionnaires and more carefully enact their qualitative assessment requirements. In like manner, we recommend that ethical reviewers and science policy reviewers consider how psychometric questionnaires embed social assumptions into clinical trials, which can affect determinations of healthfulness.
... Papoulias and Callard [2010] investigate the way that neuroscience research on affect is deployed in critical-cultural theory, arguing that brain research strengthens new ideas about affect but does not always align with the neuroscience texts cited. Gruber [2014] contends that Group Psychotherapy incorporates brain research by locating parallels in the descriptions used by neuroscientists -such as when "mirroring" neurons appear to support "mirroring therapy." However, no one has yet explored the relationship between scientific controversy and disciplinary uptake, nor has anyone explored how "outside" disciplines negotiate debate about neuroscience findings. ...
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Mirror neurons (MN) - or neurons said to be able to "mirror" the sensed environment - have been widely popularized and referenced across many academic fields. Yet, MNs have also been the subject of considerable debate in the neurosciences. Using a criterion based sampling method and a citation analysis, this paper examines the extent of engagement with the neuroscience literature about MNs, looking specifically at the frequency of "MN debate sources" within articles published in the JSTOR and Communication and Mass Media (CMMC) databases. After reporting the results, the paper reviews characteristic examples in context and, ultimately, shows that MN debates remain largely absent from peer-reviewed articles published in JSTOR and CMMC. However, the paper suggests that this happens for good reason and that MNs retain the potential for inventive animations even though debates have gone largely unrecognized.
This article examines prescription drug labels (PDLs) via an actor-network theory analysis to demonstrate current challenges with technical communication (TC) scholars’ appropriation of actor-network theory. We demonstrate that the complexity of the PDL network requires a more nuanced deployment of actor-network theory notions of durability and synchronicity. Specifically, we suggest that diachronic approaches to networks enable a more comprehensive understanding in ways that synchronic approaches cannot.
A review of empirical data on involuntary affective responses to ‘rhetorical’ speech establishes the need to reexamine Jean-Jacques Rousseau's so-called ‘Weak Defense of Rhetoric,’ which considers rhetorical tropes to be dangerous because they seduce the body. Evaluating empirical findings also challenges Richard Lanham's ‘Strong Defense,’ which dismisses Rousseau and rejects any condemnation of ‘rhetorical speech’ in asserting that all utterances are already rhetorical insofar as they are contextual and selective. Ultimately, experimental psychology and neuroscience studies give good reason to adopt a new, Stronger Affective Defense of Rhetoric, one that prioritises the body and its degrees of affectability, embracing Rousseau's idea that democratic deliberation must be concerned with how the body is intimately and often automatically moved by rhetorical speech.
Neuroscience findings employed in professional and academic fields can construct new avenues of inquiry, provide evidence for existing theories, or bolster less-recognized fields of study with exciting research from the brain sciences. However, the strategic, rhetorical alignments or disjunctions that enable those fields to incorporate or reject interpretations of neuroscience data have not yet undergone much discussion. This paper examines how phenomenologists construct the means to contest interpretations of mirror neurons coming from the cognitive neurosciences. The analysis ultimately expands neurorhetorics, demonstrating that rhetorical scholars need not privilege neuroscientific conceptions but can continually “re-invent” the brain, foregrounding multiple ontologies, pursuing alternative rhetorical alignments and performances.
This study of ozone-hole controversy demonstrates an approach to translation that captures material-discursive elements of environmental risk. By adapting actor-network theory’s notion of translation with Goodnight’s spheres of argument model, my results reveal how uncertainties created sites for scientists and their images to perform in ways that visualized risk in public forums. Citizens then responded to these risks through amplified uncertainties and counter-images that envisioned a hole in the skin of the body public.
Responding to the call to provide guidance for incorporating diverse perspectives in science-policy debate, Collins and Evans’ normative model of expertise provides a useful starting point for deciding who gets to come to the table—expertise and experience. However, new materialist critiques highlight the epistemic challenges of such an approach. Drawing on the work of Annemarie Mol, I propose that the theory of multiple ontologies and a practise-based orientation can enrich conversations about expertise and inclusion in science-policy decision-making, particularly in matters of concern. Specifically, I reread Collins and Evans’ normative model of expertise through multiple ontologies, resulting in an expertise of doing. Such an approach both productively resolves gaps in each while leading to the creation of something new. I will explore what this expertise of doing might mean for the long-standing problem of expertise and inclusion in scientific, technical, and health policy disputes. Specifically, I present a case study of the L’Aquila controversy, an undeniable matter of concern, and ruminate on what an expertise of doing might suggest about how to reconfigure such decision-making disputes.
Rev.& expanded from Case study research in education,1988.Incl.bibliographical references,index
This paper outlines a new approach to the study of power, that of the sociology of translation. Starting from three principles, those of agnosticism, generalised symmetry and free association, the paper describes a scientigc and economic controversy about the causes for the decline in the population of scallops in St. Brieuc Bay and the attempts by three marine biologists to develop a conservation strategy for that population. Four "moments" of translation are discerned in the attempts by these researchers to impose themselves and their degnition of the situation on others: Z) problematization-the researchers sought to become indispensable to other actors in the drama by degning the nature and the problems of the latter and then suggesting that these would be resolved if the actors negotiated the "obligatory passage point" of the researchers' program of investigation; G) interessemen- A series of processes by which the researchers sought to lock the other actors into the roles that had been proposed for them in that program; 3) enrolment- A set of strategies in which the researchers sought to degne and interrelate the various roles they had allocated to others; 4) mobilization- A set of methods used by the researchers to ensure that supposed spokesmen for various relevant collectivities were properly able to represent those collectivities and not betrayed by the latter. In conclusion, it is noted that translation is a process, never a completed accomplishment, and it may (as in the empirical case considered) fail.
Objets fronti_re = s'adaptent pour prendre en compte plusieurs points de vue et maintenir une identité entre eux Cet espace de travail se construit grâce à des objets-frontières tels que des systèmes de classification, qui relient entre eux les concepts communs et les rôles sociaux divergents de chaque groupe professionnel. Les objet-frontière contribuent à la stabilité du système de référence en offrant un contexte partagé pour la communication et la coopération. Les objets peuvent être considérés comme frontière (Star et Griesemer, 1989) en tant qu’ils contribuent à la stabilité du système de référence en offrant un contexte partagé pour la communication et la coopération.
We recorded electrical activity from 532 neurons in the rostral part of inferior area 6 (area F5) of two macaque monkeys. Previous data had shown that neurons of this area discharge during goal-directed hand and mouth movements. We describe here the properties of a newly discovered set of F5 neurons ("mirror neurons', n = 92) all of which became active both when the monkey performed a given action and when it observed a similar action performed by the experimenter. Mirror neurons, in order to be visually triggered, required an interaction between the agent of the action and the object of it. The sight of the agent alone or of the object alone (three-dimensional objects, food) were ineffective. Hand and the mouth were by far the most effective agents. The actions most represented among those activating mirror neurons were grasping, manipulating and placing. In most mirror neurons (92%) there was a clear relation between the visual action they responded to and the motor response they coded. In approximately 30% of mirror neurons the congruence was very strict and the effective observed and executed actions corresponded both in terms of general action (e.g. grasping) and in terms of the way in which that action was executed (e.g. precision grip). We conclude by proposing that mirror neurons form a system for matching observation and execution of motor actions. We discuss the possible role of this system in action recognition and, given the proposed homology between F5 and human Brocca's region, we posit that a matching system, similar to that of mirror neurons exists in humans and could be involved in recognition of actions as well as phonetic gestures.
A way of treating interests which differs from those of both Woolgar and Barnes is here recommended. This third `enrolment' or `networking' theory approach notes that actors attempt to enlist one another in a variety of different ways, including the transformation of imputed interests. Some of the strategies adopted in this process are considered. Overall, it is suggested that interests should not be imputed to actors as background causes of action, but rather that they should be seen as attempts to define and enforce contingent forms of social order on the part of actors themselves.