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Publication Detail
Using novel methods to examine the role of mimicry in trust and rapport
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Hale J
  • Date awarded:
  • Supervisors:
    Hamilton AFDEC
  • Status:
  • Awarding institution:
    University College London
  • Language:
  • Date Submitted:
  • Keywords:
    mimicry, trust, rapport, social interaction, virtual reality
Without realising it, people unconsciously mimic each other’s postures, gestures and mannerisms. This ‘chameleon effect’ is thought to play an important role in creating affiliation, rapport and trust. Existing theories propose that mimicry is used as a social strategy to bond with other members of our social groups. There is strong behavioural and neural evidence for the strategic control of mimicry. However, evidence that mimicry leads to positive social outcomes is less robust. In this thesis, I aimed to rigorously test the prediction that mimicry leads to rapport and trust, using novel virtual reality methods with high experimental control. In the first study, we developed a virtual reality task for measuring implicit trust behaviour in a virtual maze. Across three experiments we demonstrated the suitability of this task over existing economic games for measuring trust towards specific others. In the second and third studies we tested the effects of mimicry from virtual characters whose other social behaviours were tightly controlled. In the second study, we found that virtual mimicry significantly increased rapport and this was not affected by the precise time delay in mimicking. In the third study we found this result was not replicated using a strict, pre-registered design, and the effects of virtual mimicry did not change depending on the ingroup or outgroup status of the mimicker. In the fourth study we went beyond mimicry to explore new ways of modelling coordinated behaviour as it naturally occurs in social interactions. We used high-resolution motion capture to record motion in dyadic conversations and calculated levels of coordination using wavelet analysis. We found a reliable pattern of decoupling as well as coordination in people’s head movements. I discuss how the findings of our experiments relate to theories about the social function of mimicry and suggest directions for future research.
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