Mimicry and Confidence: New Insights into the Positive (and Negative) Consequences of Behavioral Mimicry
Kenneth DeMarree Principal Investigator
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Mimicry occurs when one person non-consciously mirrors the nonverbal behavior of another person. Being mimicked generally increases one's willingness to help the mimicker and increases the likelihood of being persuaded by the mimicker. Past work has suggested that the reason mimicry promotes these outcomes is because of (a) shifts in the mimicked person's self-concepts or (b) increases in the mimicked person's liking for the mimicker. This research will test a different potential reason why mimicry influences helping and persuasion. Specifically, the proposed studies will test the idea that being mimicked increases one's confidence in one's own thoughts. This increased confidence should magnify the impact of one's current thoughts on judgment and behavior. Unlike previous accounts of mimicry -- which predict nearly universal prosocial outcomes of being mimicked -- the proposed idea that mimicry increases confidence predicts that when a person's thoughts happen to be antisocial (e.g., competitive) mimicry will lead to more antisocial behavior rather than more helping. <br/><br/>The proposed research will challenge existing theoretical perspectives on mimicry by demonstrating that increased confidence stemming from mimicry can produce effects opposite to those previously documented. In most interactions, positive thoughts predominate, so "main effect" theories (e.g., increased liking) and the confidence perspective make the same predictions. However, a unique prediction of this proposal is that if antisocial thoughts predominate, the confidence resulting from being mimicked will increase antisocial behavior. That is, mimicry will increase the impact of a person's currently accessible thoughts, regardless of whether the thoughts are positive ("help him," "believe her") or negative ("defeat him," "disagree with her"). In short, the PI proposes a new explanation for the effects of mimicry, one that explains current findings and identifies when opposite findings should follow from being mimicked.<br/><br/>Knowing the precise reasons why mimicry influence persuasion and helping behavior is important not only because it contributes to theories of helping and persuasion but also because it has a wide range of applications -- especially in interpersonal settings. For example, mimicry is relevant to clinical psychology, health communication, human-computer interaction, management, and marketing. This research has great potential to inform theory, training, and practice in these fields. For example this work can tell us when a therapist (or "social" robot) who mimics a client is most likely to facilitate the desired outcomes versus when mimicry might "backfire." The proposed research will also be disseminated widely, as the investigators will actively seek opportunities to present this research at major conferences and to publish findings in top tier journals in psychology. Finally, this research will promote science education and training by involving a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students in all phases of the research process.