Self-Reflections It was one of those seemingly mundane moments, but I was thunderstruck when I realized the implications. Tossing on a cardigan, I happened to notice my toddler intently staring at me to figure out how to push a button through a hole in her sweater. Suddenly, I realized how much we learn how to do things and how to behave around others just by watching and copying. At the time, nearly a decade ago, I had little idea about how extensively my child was mentally rehearsing my actions as she studied me. Since then, science has learned much more. When we see someone engaged in any activity—yawning, dancing, smiling—cells called mirror neurons that are scattered throughout the brain create an instant replay in our heads. Investigators believe that these cells may be the keys to cultural development and may even be responsible for humanity’s collective “great leap forward” 50,000 years ago, as David Dobbs explains in his article, “A Revealing Reflection.” Turn to page 22 to learn more.
Sigmund Freud, the iconic founder of psychoanalysis who was born 150 years ago on May 6, would have had a different take on my mother-daughter relationship (he held that girls were rivals with their moms for their fathers’ attentions). In this issue we mark the anniversary of his birth and his impressive infl uence on all things psychological in a special section, “Freud at 150.” As neuropsychologist Mark Solms describes in “Freud Returns,” starting on page 28, neuroscientists are fi nding that biological descriptions of the brain may fi t together best with theories Freud developed. A second feature, “Neurotic about Neurons,” by Steve Ayan, further details Freud’s notions and his eventful life; go to page 36. The last installment provides a modern take. In recent years, scientists have been testing what works—and what does not—in talk therapy, thereby bringing the power of research to the couch with “empirically supported therapies.” Surprisingly, these techniques are not without controversy, as psychologists Hal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lilienfeld explain in “Psychotherapy on Trial,” beginning on page 42. We hope the section tickles your id, ego and superego.