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Advances in Psychological Science    2016, Vol. 24 Issue (6) : 958-973     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2016.00958
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The myth of broken mirror theory of autism: Origins, problems and prospects
PAN Wei1; CHEN Wei2,3; WANG Yin4; SHAN Chun-lei5
(1 School of Rehabilitation Science, Nanjing Normal University of Special Education, Nanjing 210038, China) (2 Center for the Study of Language and Cognition, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310028, China) (3 Department of Psychology, Shaoxing University, Shaoxing 312000, China) (4 School of Psychology, New York University, New York 10003, USA) (5 School of Rehabilitation Science, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai 201203, China)
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Abstract  

Autism are characterized by difficulties in reciprocal social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and repetitive activities and narrow interests. A core diagnostic criterion of autism is abnormal implicit social cognition. Based on the assumption that mirror neuron system is the unified neural basis of implicit social processes, the “broken mirror” theory attributes most social deficits in autism to impairments in mirror neuron system, leading to the issues with social skills, imitation, empathy, and theory of mind seen in people with autism. However, after a decade of extensive examination and verification, this theory has been facing increasing challenges from behavioral, neuroscientific and clinical research. This paper outlines literatures examining the unified role of mirror neuron system for implicit social cognition, and systematically review studies testing a global dysfunction of the mirror system in autism. We conclude that mirror neuron system plays a sufficient but not necessary role for implicit social cognition and very few evidence supports that an all-or-nothing problem with the mirror neuron system can underlie autism. The implications and future research directions are also discussed.

Keywords autism      mirror neurons      broken mirror theory      social cognition      action imitation      social responding     
Corresponding Authors: CHEN Wei, E-mail: anti-monist@163.com WANG Yin, E-mail: slzwy@msn.com    
Issue Date: 15 June 2016
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PAN Wei
CHEN Wei
WANG Yin
SHAN Chun-lei
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PAN Wei,CHEN Wei,WANG Yin, et al. The myth of broken mirror theory of autism: Origins, problems and prospects[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2016, 24(6): 958-973.
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http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlkxjz/EN/10.3724/SP.J.1042.2016.00958     OR     http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlkxjz/EN/Y2016/V24/I6/958
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