ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2019, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (4): 636-645.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2019.00636

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From motor imitation to social cognition: The role of self-other control

WANG Xieshun, SU Yanjie()   

  1. School of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences and Beijing Key Laboratory of Behavior and Mental Health, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • Received:2018-10-17 Online:2019-04-15 Published:2019-02-22
  • Contact: SU Yanjie


In social interaction, people have a tendency to copy observed actions. This automatic imitation is crucial for understanding others’ feelings behind actions, but can also result in potential conflicts between motor representations of self and other. Therefore, we need to distinguish our own motor plan from that of others and identify the conflicts. This capacity was termed self-other control (SOC). Similar to imitation control, higher levels of social cognition, such as theory of mind, perspective-taking, and empathy, also involve the processing of information about self and others. Much evidence suggested that SOC was a domain-general mechanism, as imitation control and other socio-cognitive processes in the brain shared the same SOC system to distinguish between information of self and other and regulate conflicts thereof. Some recent studies showed that, comparing with inhibitory control (IC) which was to suppress one’s own prepotent responses, SOC played a more pivotal role in social cognition, and the effect of IC on social cognition was moderated by SOC. In addition, the domain-generality of SOC indicates that in the future, individuals with certain socio-cognitive deficits (such as autism and alexithymia) would benefit from rehabilitation via motor-imitation control training.

Key words: imitation control, self-other control, inhibitory control, social cognition

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