Despite nearly two decades of research on mirror neurons, there is still much debate about what they do. The most enduring hypothesis is that they enable ‘action understanding’. However, recent critical reviews have failed to find compelling evidence in favour of this view. Instead, these authors argue that mirror neurons are produced by associative learning and therefore that they cannot contribute to action understanding. The present opinion piece suggests that this argument is flawed. We argue that mirror neurons may both develop through associative learning and contribute to inferences about the actions of others.