Just by looking at someone, you experience them. Ever fallen in love at first sight or had a “gut feeling” about someone? You internally resonated with them. Ever seen someone trip and momentarily felt a twinge of pain for them? Observing them activates the “pain matrix” in your brain, research shows. Ever been moved by the sight of a person helping someone? You vicariously experienced it and thereby felt elevation.
We are wired to read each others’ bodies. Not just in terms of physical appearance but at a subtler and more complex level that lies at the root of lasting love, empathy and social connection. This process is called “resonance” and it is so automatic and rapid that it often happens unconsciously.
Like an acute sounding board, parts of our brain internally echo what others do and feel. Appropriately called “mirror neurons,” they serve as in-built monitors that reflect other people’s state of mind. Someone’s smile, for example, activates the smile muscles in our faces, while a frown activates our frown muscles, according to research by Ulf Dimberg at Uppsala University in Sweden.