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The Human Copying Machine

Tiffany Watt-Smith explores the interest of Victorian scientists in our urge to imitate. She explains why scientists turned to theatre to understand this strange phenomenon.

Do you yawn when someone else does? Or inadvertently mimic other people's accents?
Today's neuroscientists say 'mirror neurons' are to blame. But long before MRI scanners, Victorian psychologists also believed we were hard-wired to imitate. Tiffany Watt-Smith from Queen Mary, University of London unearths the 19th-century fascination with the 'Human Copying Machine', and discovers why men of science turned to the world of Victorian theatre to understand this strange phenomenon.

Recorded in front of an audience at BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival of Ideas at Sage, Gateshead. New Generation Thinkers is a scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the AHRC to find the brightest academic minds with the potential to turn their ideas into broadcasts.

Producer: Zahid Warley.

Available now

15 minutes

Last on

Mon 3 Nov 2014 22:45

Broadcast

The Arts & Ideas Podcast

The Arts & Ideas Podcast

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