Mirror Neurons

The problem of vicariousness and authenticity has troubled philosophers for centuries: part of being an authentic individual seems to require that one examine his/her own life, thoughts, opinions and beliefs, whatever the rest of society may endorse, and choose to embody only those beliefs, morals, traits, opinions, attitudes and dispositions that are consistent with one's examined and rationally chosen set of virtues.

Part of the problem is that so few people actually try to be authentic, and even most of those who do try will eventually sell out. Mob mentality, social conformity and the lack of personal identity all seem to be the rule among humanity, but now we are beginning to understand why: we seem to be hard-wired to empathize and live vicariously through others.

Believe it or not, the very neurology of our own brains actively blurs the distinctions between seeing and doing, and even more shockingly, between self and other, as Robert Krulwich reports in this video.

If you can't unglue yourself from watching sports, or playing video games, or watching porn, now you know why :)
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