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Social Media Marketers’ Best Kept Secret: Mirror Neurons
Last Updated January 5th, 2011

Imagine that you saw your favorite UFC fighter get kicked between the legs during a fight. Could you stop yourself from cringing? Probably not because you can picture yourself in that same situation and imagine how much it hurts.

Why do our bodies respond this way?

There are bundles of cells in the human brain called mirror neurons that activate when you observe or perform an action. The problem is, these mirror neurons can’t distinguish between observation and performance…

…So, when you see a UFC fighter get kicked, your mirror neurons fire-up, and your brain thinks you just got kicked.

How do you use these mirror neurons to influence people with social media?

How Can You Use Mirror Neurons to Influence People?

You just need to remember one thing. When people see someone perform an action on video, they will think they just performed the action themselves.

And if people think they just performed an action, they’ll be more likely to actually perform the action. Why? Because they’re already thinking about doing it.

So, if you want people to tweet your new video, you could end your video by tweeting it yourself. Or, if you want people to buy your product, you could end your video by going through your sales process.

Can You Influence People With Mirror Neurons Without Video?

The short answer is, Yes. All you have to do is pick the right words to get people into the right mindset.

For example, take a look at how I started this blog post:

“Just imagine that you saw your favorite UFC fighter get kicked between the legs during”

Instead of showing you a video of a UFC fighter, I made you picture it yourself. This is called invoking the mind’s eye. And that’s the best way to activate mirror neurons with text.

What’s Next?

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18 comments Leave a comment
Geniece Brown

Hi Derek, I’m on your list and get your updates but this is my first time reading this particular post. Quenched my legs together when I read the first sentence! Have never thought of marketing this way. This totally works though. I’ll be looking for ways to be more creative with my writing to implement this whenever possible.


I like this a lot Derek. Can really do wonders for writing copy and talking about the benifits of a product.

Katharine Trauger

Um. Just thought. ( 🙂 )
How far away is this from hypnosis? Hmm?

Katharine Trauger

Ha! It worked. 🙂
And I think this is what makes good stories so effective, right? We listen or watch it acted out, and superinpose ourselves on the action. I think it’s also what makes some people cry when others are crying. How amazing to read this post and then grasp so many more things. Thanks!

Coach Comeback

I just pictured everyone wondering who the heck Coach Comeback is and letting their curiosity get the best of them by clicking through to my blog to learn what CPR for your life is all about =-D

Rock on Derek


Great post, Derek!

Not just a secret of social media marketers, but mirror neurons date back to some of mankind’s most ancient myths and rituals. Joseph Campbell’s books talk a lot about the importance of mirror neurons in human learning and belief systems.

They’re a beautiful thing and I think marketers will focus on them more and more with time.


Very interesting post. I am getting tired of hearing the same ole advice about how to communicate.

Posts like this give me hope that there are original thoughts out there!

I am going to implement this NOW!


Hi! I am new to the site and I think its a brilliant concept to combine psychology with online marketing. There is a lot of good content and it will take me a while to work through it all. Eager to see what gives the best ROI!

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[…] tip to my friend Derek Halpern who enlightened me on the power of mirror neurons.) « Previous […]

Karl Staib - Work Happy Now

I’ve never seen Frank Kern’s video. Time to check it out.

The idea of mirror neurons is fantastic. I never really thought to consciously use this type of communication in my videos. Now that I know about this concept I can test it out and see what works.

In the end it’s all about testing to see what our audience responds to and tweaking it to make it a little better the next time.

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Biagio Messina

Great first post! As a reality TV producer, I count on mirror neurons to make people feel like they are covered in cockroaches, running through a burning building, or falling in love. Who knew it would work for my blog? Picture this: you’re very interested in the way we just filmed a Twitterview to help people understand what it was like to win Scream Queens and may want to write about it : )

Seriously, cool blog.

Jason Cohen

If all the articles will be like this, it will be entertaining and useful! Congrats on the new blog and I’m looking forward to the posts.


Verrryy interesting! I just did 2 tests on Twitter and they got more results than many of my “marketing” tweets. Thanks Derek!


@Mark Mac Checks? You’re better off going for Paypal donations. It’s a smaller time commitment (ha ha)

@Gregory I totally agree with you. Just like the 20th century was big for psychology, I think the 21st will be huge for neuroscience.

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Gregory Pruitt

I think we’re going to see a lot of marketing innovation come out of brain science in the next few years. At minimum we’ll get some insight into how & why the things we do intuitively, actually work. Mirror neurons is a great example. Like your post. More of it.

Mark Mac

Just found your site via Twitter.

Nice first post.

And getting kicked in the nuts is definately the most powerful example you could have possibly used (for guys anyway).

I’m going to go make some videos of people writing me checks now…

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