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Mimicry and seduction: An evaluation in a courtship context

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Abstract

Recent studies have found that mimicking the verbal and nonverbal behavior of strangers enhances their liking of the individual who mimicked them. An experiment was carried out in two bars during six sessions of speed dating for which young women confederates volunteered to mimic or not some verbal expressions and nonverbal behaviors of a man for 5 minutes. Data revealed that the men evaluated the dating interaction more positively when the woman mimicked them, and that mimicry was associated with a higher evaluation score of the relation and the sexual attractiveness of the woman. Mimicry appears to influence perceptions of physical attributes in addition to personal and social attributes.
Mimicry and seduction: An evaluation in a
courtship context
Nicolas Gue´guen
Universite´ de Bretagne-Sud, Lorient Cedex, France
Recent studies have found that mimicking the verbal and nonverbal behavior
of strangers enhances their liking of the individual who mimicked them. An
experiment was carried out in two bars during six sessions of speed dating for
which young women confederates volunteered to mimic or not some verbal
expressions and nonverbal behaviors of a man for 5 minutes. Data revealed
that the men evaluated the dating interaction more positively when the woman
mimicked them, and that mimicry was associated with a higher evaluation
score of the relation and the sexual attractiveness of the woman. Mimicry
appears to influence perceptions of physical attributes in addition to personal
and social attributes.
Keywords: Chameleon effect; Mimicry; Speed dating; Mating.
It has been shown that individuals mimic the verbal or non-verbal behavior
of people with whom they interact. Giles and Powesland (1975) found that
people mimic the accents of their counterparts. Chartrand and Bargh (1999)
discovered that participants were more likely to touch their faces when they
interacted with a face-touching confederate who was a stranger than when
they interacted with a foot-shaking confederate.
If people mimic their counterparts in social interactions, mimicry is also
associated with a higher positive evaluation of the mimicker. Maurer and
Tindall (1983) found that when a counselor mimicked the arm and leg
position of a client, this mimicry enhanced the client’s perception of the
counselor’s level of empathy more than when the counselor did not mimic
the client. Chartrand and Bargh (1999, study 2) engaged participants in a
task with a confederate who was instructed either to mimic the mannerism
#2008 Psychology Press, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa business
http://www.psypress.com/socinf DOI: 10.1080/15534510802628173
Address correspondence to: Dr Nicolas Gue´guen, Universite´ de Bretagne-Sud, UFR LSHS,
4, rue Jean Zay, BP 92116, 56321 LORIENT CEDEX France. E-mail: nicolas.gueguen@univ-
ubs.fr
SOCIAL INFLUENCE
2009, 4 (4), 249–255
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of the participant or to exhibit neutral, nondescript mannerisms. Compared
to those who were not mimicked, participants who were mimicked by the
confederate subsequently reported a higher mean of liking the confederate
and described their interaction with the confederate as more smooth and
harmonious. If mimicry is associated with greater liking of mimickers,
several studies have also shown that mimicry leads to enhancement of pro-
social behavior toward mimickers. Van Baaren, Holland, Steenaert, and
Van Knippenberg (2003) found that a waitress who mimicked the verbal
behavior of her customers by literally repeating their order received
significantly larger tips. Van Baaren, Holland, Kawakami, and Van
Knippenberg (2004) also found that an experimenter who mimicked the
posture (position of arms, legs, etc.) of participants received more help from
them (helping the experimenter to pick up pens ‘‘accidentally’’ dropped on
the floor) than from participants who were not mimicked. Rapport and
affiliation are also associated with mimicry. Lakin and Chartrand (2003)
found that participants who were primed with the unconscious concept of
affiliation mimicked more favorably the confederate seen on a videotape
than when no affiliation priming was used.
The above-mentioned studies show that mimicry seems to enhance social
relationships. According to Lakin, Jefferis, Cheng, and Chartrand (2003),
the relationship between mimicry and liking or pro-social behavior can be
explained in terms of human evolution. In other words, mimicry could serve
to foster relationships with others. This behavior could serve a ‘‘social glue’’
function, binding people together and creating harmonious relationships.
Furthermore, in these later studies liking was also measured by scales but
without behavioral intention or real social behavior toward the mimicker.
Similarly, liking and person perception were the only dimensions
measured in these studies, and no other social dimensions were explored,
such as the attractiveness of the target. We think that if mimicry serves a
‘‘social glue’’ function, then more than a liking measure is affected by
mimicry, and various measures of interpersonal attraction are also
influenced by mimicry.
The aim of our experiment was to explore the role of mimicry in
relationships between individuals by specifically examining the role of
mimicry in the relation between a man and a woman in a courtship
situation. Men who participated in various sessions of speed dating were
mimicked or not by female confederates, and afterward they had to evaluate
their different dating partners. Because mimicry is associated with a greater
desire for affiliation and rapport, a positive perception of the mimicker,
persuasiveness, and a higher level of altruistic behavior toward the
mimicker, we made the assumption that women who mimicked men would
be evaluated more favorably, and would be perceived to be more attractive
by the men, than women who did not mimic them.
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METHOD
Participants
The participants were 66 single males (ranging in age from 23 to 30) chosen
at random during different sessions of speed dating organized in a large
town (350,000 inhabitants) in France.
Procedure
The experiment was conducted during six sessions of speed dating organized
in two bars. Speed dating is a system that makes it possible for people to
meet a large number of potential dating partners in a short time.
Participants pay a fee of about J10–20 to participate in a session. In one
bar used here, a maximum of 12 men and 12 women are permitted to
register for each session, and 10 men and 10 women in the other bar. In both
bars the sessions are stratified by age (20–30, etc.). During a session of speed
dating, the men and women rotate in order to meet all of the participants
during a series of short ‘‘dates.’’ The participants are assigned a number on
arrival and wear a tag with that number. During each rotation, which lasts 5
minutes in the two bars where our experiment was carried out, the man and
woman meet each other. Participants are free to discuss whatever they like,
and during each round personal information (hobbies, education, jobs, etc.)
and sometimes very intimate information (sexual activities, fantasies, etc.) is
exchanged. At the end of each round the organizer rings a bell to signal the
participants to move on to the next table, to begin a new ‘‘date’’ with
another person of the opposite sex. In the two bars where our experiment
was carried out, the men move at the signal while the women remain at their
tables. Therefore our independent variable was manipulated during each
round in which a woman encountered a man whom she did not know
before.
Three women confederates (aged between 20 and 22) with previous
experience in speed dating volunteered to take part in the experiment, and
one of the three was chosen to participate in a given session in which the
experiment was conducted. The women confederates were instructed to
mimic or not mimic the verbal and nonverbal behavior of some men during
a round. The three women confederates were not informed about the effect
of mimicry on the attitudes, social perception, or behavior of the mimicked
person toward the mimicker. The men who were mimicked or not were
selected at random based on the number that was assigned to them when
they arrived at the bar. Each confederate had a list that indicated the
number of each man she had to mimic or not, so that the subjective selection
of one man in one condition was avoided. In the mimicry condition, the
woman confederate was instructed to mimic the verbal behavior of the man
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by literally repeating some of his words, verbal expressions, or statements.
For example, the woman confederate was instructed to repeat or not repeat
some of the man’s verbal expressions (‘‘It’s great,’’ ‘‘It’s fun,’’…) or other
sentences (‘‘You really do this?’’ to which the confederate answered ‘‘Yes’’ in
the non mimicry condition and ‘‘Yes, I really do this’’ in the mimicry
condition). The confederate was instructed to try to repeat five expressions
or sentences during the round. The confederate was also instructed to mimic
nonverbal behavior of the men (i.e., when he stroked his face, folded his
arms, or scratched his ear …) during the round, and to try to mimic a
nonverbal behavior five times with a delay of 3–4 seconds after the man had
shown this nonverbal behavior. In the non-mimicry condition, the woman
confederate was instructed to be careful not to mimic the verbal expressions,
sentences, or nonverbal behavior of the men. With the exception of the
difference in verbal and nonverbal behavior in the mimicry condition, the
three women confederates were instructed to act in the same way with all
the men by smiling in the same manner, by the content of their responses,
and by the questions they asked the men during each round.
At the end of the session the male participants gave the organizers a list of
five numbers corresponding to the numbers of the five women to whom they
would like to give their contact information. The men listed five women by
order of preference (the women followed the same procedure). As a rule, if
there is a match in the session, contact information is given to both parties.
The rank order of the confederate was evaluated between the sub-group of
men that was mimicked and the other group that was not mimicked. If the
confederate was not included in the group of five women selected by a man,
the value of 0 was attributed. If the confederate was ranked fifth in the
classification, the value of 1 was attributed. If she was placed in the fourth,
third, second, or first position, the value attributed was 2, 3, 4, or 5
respectively.
In addition, each man was asked to respond to a short survey about the
confederate. A male experimenter approached each man and asked him to
evaluate the confederate, and at the same time he refreshed the
participant’s memory by recalling the confederate’s first name, her
number, and where she had been sitting in the bar. The participants
were asked to evaluate the quality of the round with the confederate and
her sexual attractiveness with the help of two semantic scales with two
opposite adjectives. Each scale was graduated with nine steps. The first
scale measured the quality of the interaction with the confederate: The
session with this woman was of [1] poor quality / [9] high quality.The
second scale measured the sexual attractiveness of the woman confederate:
This woman had [1] very low sexual attractiveness/ [9] very high sexual
attractiveness. After responding, the participants in the experimental condition
were debriefed.
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RESULTS
The dependent variables used in this experiment were the rank order of the
three women confederates in the various sessions, the quality of the round,
and the sexual attractiveness of the confederates. No interaction was found
between the experimental conditions and the three confederates with each
dependent variable, so data were collapsed across confederates.
An ANOVA revealed a significant effect of the experimental condition for
each of the dependant variables. Women who mimicked men during the
round of dating were more favorably chosen by men to give them their
contact information (M52.91, SD51.16) than the same women who did not
mimic them (M52.30, SD51.10); F(1, 65)55.51, p,.03, g
2
5.09). The
women’s mimicking of men during the round of dating was associated with
an increase in the men’s evaluation of the quality of the interaction
(M55.33, SD51.19) compared to when the women did not mimic them
(M54.61, SD51.09); F(1, 65)59.54, p,.005, g
2
5.15). The women
confederates who mimicked men during the round of dating were evaluated
as having greater sexual attractiveness (M56.39, SD51.14) than the women
who did not mimic (M55.54, SD51.11); F(1, 65)511.48, p,.002, g
2
5.16).
In order to study the relation between the three dependent variables, a
correlation analysis (Bravais-Pearson’s coefficient) was performed between
the three dependent variables. We found a significant and positive relation
between the rank-order of the confederates and the evaluation of the quality
of the interaction, r(65)5.67, p,.001, the rank-order and sexual attractive-
ness, r(65)5.61, p,.001, and between the quality of the interaction and
sexual attractiveness, r(65)5.57, p,.001.
DISCUSSION
The experiment offers evidence that mimicry is associated with greater
attractiveness of women in a dating situation. It was found that when our
women confederates were instructed to mimic some of a man’s verbal
expressions or sentences, and to mimic the nonverbal behaviors he displayed
during the 5-minute interaction, this mimicry was associated with a higher
rank-order of preference for providing their contact information. It was also
found that the quality of the interaction was perceived more positively in the
mimicking condition. At least, it was found that confederates were perceived
by men to be more sexually attractive in the mimicry condition.
The effect of mimicry on the perception of the quality of the interaction
and the preference for the confederate is congruent with previous
experimental studies (Chartrand & Bargh, 1999, study 2; Maurer &
Tindall, 1983) which found that people who were mimicked reported a
subsequent higher mean of liking of the mimicker, and described their
interaction with the mimicker as more smooth and harmonious compared to
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those who were not mimicked. However, in our experiment we also found
that mimicry had an effect on the perception of sexual attractiveness of the
confederates. This effect is new if we considerate the literature on mimicry.
Sexual attractiveness of women evaluated by men is weakly explained by
personal or social attributes but strongly associated with physical attributes
(Swami & Furnham, 2008) and research has found that men, more than
women, value physical attractiveness in a mate, whereas women, more than
men, value good financial prospects and higher status (Buss, 1989; Kenrick,
Groth, Trost, & Sadalla, 1993; Shackelford, Schmitt, & Buss, 2005). In
order to test the impact of sexual attractiveness per se, a partial correlational
analysis was performed between rank-order of the confederates and sexual
attractiveness controlled by the quality of the interaction. A significant link
was found, r(64)5.37, p,.005, which seems to show that the effect of sexual
attractiveness cannot only be considered as a halo effect mediated by the
quality of interaction. Interestingly, we found that the partial correlation
was significant only in the mimic condition, r(31)5.41, p,.02, whereas it
was not in the control condition, r(31)5.26, p5.15. Thus, with men,
mimicry seems to have the power to influence not only the perception of the
personal or social attributes of the female mimicker but also her physical
attributes.
Lakin et al. (2003) have suggested that mimicry could serve to foster
relationships with others. Mimicry increases the positive perception of the
mimicker, and we know that perceiving someone more positively is
important to increase the probability of interacting with him/her. In
courtship interaction, where sexual attractiveness is important especially for
men, mimicry increases the sexual attractiveness of the mimicker, which
probably leads, in return, to an increase in the desire to interact with the
mimicker.
This study has several limitations that need to be addressed. The method
was similar than the methodology used by Maurer and Tindall (1983) who
have studied the effect of mimicry in a counselor/client interaction.
However, although care was taken to ensure that the two experimental
groups were treated in the same way and only differed in the amount of
mimicry, it may be possible that the experimental conditions differed in
other respects. It would be necessary to conduct a more controlled
experiment by controlling the verbal and nonverbal behavior of the woman
confederate in order to maintain the same behavior with the exception of the
mimicry instruction.
In conclusion, by using an experimental approach in a real context it was
found in this study that mimicry is associated with greater preference and
liking for a female in a courtship situation in which a female was instructed
to mimic some of the verbal and nonverbal behaviors of the male. This
aspect has never been examined previously. It was also found that sexual
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attractiveness was affected by mimicry. To our knowledge this effect is the
first found in the mimicry literature and seems to show that mimicry has an
effect on the perception of the physical attributes of the mimicker. Although
our results need replication and further extension, such data seem to show
that mimicry plays an important role in affiliation and rapport, as well as in
romantic relationships and matching.
Manuscript received 24 October 2008
Manuscript accepted 14 November 2008
First published online 30 December 2008
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A comprehensive model of interpersonal attraction is presented in which attraction is an emotion expressed to regulate interpersonal relationships. The model proposes that cognitive appraisals, the subjective experience, and the expression of affiliative behavior are fundamental to understanding how attraction operates. Specifically, we discuss how (a) cognitive appraisals (willingness and ability) are fundamental to the subjective experience of attraction, (b) social dilemma considerations affect when and why the subjective experience aligns with the expression of affiliative behavior, (c) the interplay of the components of attraction explain the panoply of extant attraction phenomena, and (d) the attraction process operates in both initial interactions and enduring relationships. We conclude with a discussion of methodological and theoretical directions to fuel future growth.
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The “chameleon effect” refers to the tendency to adopt the postures, gestures, and mannerisms of interaction partners (Chartrand & Bargh, 1999). This type of mimicry occurs outside of conscious awareness, and without any intent to mimic or imitate. Empirical evidence suggests a bi-directional relationship between nonconscious mimicry on the one hand, and liking, rapport, and affiliation on the other. That is, nonconscious mimicry creates affiliation, and affiliation can be expressed through nonconscious mimicry. We argue that mimicry played an important role in human evolution. Initially, mimicry may have had survival value by helping humans communicate. We propose that the purpose of mimicry has now evolved to serve a social function. Nonconscious behavioral mimicry increases affiliation, which serves to foster relationships with others. We review current research in light of this proposed framework and suggest future areas of research.
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People have long been interested in the complexities of human beauty, but until recently the science of attractiveness was largely left to poets, playwrights, philosophers, and artists. This book begins the task of providing a scientific look at physical attraction, by presenting an overview of scholarly work on physical beauty, culture, evolution and other aspects of human attractiveness. The Psychology of Physical Attraction begins by discussing the role of evolution in the development of what it means to be 'attractive' in contemporary society. It provides a general overview of evolutionary psychology and mate choice, as well as an in-depth focus on physical characteristics such as physical symmetry, body weight and ratios, and youthfulness. The book goes on to explore the role of societal and cultural ideals of beauty through a discussion of the social psychology of human beauty. Finally, the 'morality' of physical attractiveness is examined, looking at issues such as discrimination on the basis of looks, body image and eating disorders, and cosmetic surgery. Combining both evolutionary and social perspectives, this book offers a unique and comprehensive overview of the many debates involved in the science of physical attraction which ultimately allows for a better understanding of human beauty. It will be of interest to students and researchers in psychology, as well as anyone interested in the science of physical attractiveness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Contemporary mate preferences can provide important clues to human reproductive history. Little is known about which characteristics people value in potential mates. Five predictions were made about sex differences in human mate preferences based on evolutionary conceptions of parental investment, sexual selection, human reproductive capacity, and sexual asymmetries regarding certainty of paternity versus maternity. The predictions centered on how each sex valued earning capacity, ambition— industriousness, youth, physical attractiveness, and chastity. Predictions were tested in data from 37 samples drawn from 33 countries located on six continents and five islands (total N = 10,047). For 27 countries, demographic data on actual age at marriage provided a validity check on questionnaire data. Females were found to value cues to resource acquisition in potential mates more highly than males. Characteristics signaling reproductive capacity were valued more by males than by females. These sex differences may reflect different evolutionary selection pressures on human males and females; they provide powerful cross-cultural evidence of current sex differences in reproductive strategies. Discussion focuses on proximate mechanisms underlying mate preferences, consequences for human intrasexual competition, and the limitations of this study.
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To identify the universal dimensions of long-term mate preferences, we used an archival database of preference ratings provided by several thousand participants from three dozen cultures [Buss, D. M. (1989)]. Participants from each culture responded to the same 18-item measure. Statistical procedures ensured that ratings provided by men and women were weighted equally, and that ratings provided by participants from each culture were weighted equally. We identified four universal dimensions: Love vs. Status/Resources; Dependable/Stable vs. Good Looks/Health; Education/Intelligence vs. Desire for Home/Children; and Sociability vs. Similar Religion. Several standard sex differences replicated across cultures, including women’s greater valuation of social status and men’s greater valuation of physical attractiveness. We present culture-specific ratings on the universal dimensions across-sex and between-sex to facilitate future cross-cultural work on human mating psychology.
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Two studies examined which traits males and females desire in partners at various levels of relationship development in an attempt to integrate evolutionary models (which emphasize sex differences) and social exchange models (which emphasize self-appraisals). In Study 1, male and female students specified their minimum criteria on 24 traits for a date, sexual partner, exclusive dating partner, marriage partner, and 1-night sexual liaison. They also rated themselves on the same dimensions. Sex differences were greatest for casual sexual liaisons, with men's criteria being consistently lower than women's. Men's self-ratings were generally less correlated with their criteria for a 1-night stand, as well. Study 2 replicated the findings of Study 1, adding several modifications, including a measure of Ss' sex typing. Sex typing had few effects. The advantages of combining social psychological and evolutionary perspectives are discussed.
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Investigated whether a counselor who was mirror imaging a congruent arm and leg position of a client would significantly increase the client's perception of the counselor's level of empathy over the level of the client's perception when the counselor did not mirror image congruent arm and leg position. 80 high school juniors met individually with a counselor for 15 min to discuss career plans. Three variables were controlled for: counselor's direct body orientation, position of counselor's head, and empathy level of the counselor's verbal responses. The dependent variable was the Empathy subscale of the Barrett-Lennard Relationship Inventory. ANOVA results showed that clients rated the counselor as having a significantly greater level of empathy in the congruent than in the noncongruent condition. (23 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).
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The chameleon effect refers to nonconscious mimicry of the postures, mannerisms, facial expressions, and other behaviors of one's interaction partners, such that one's behavior passively rind unintentionally changes to match that of others in one's current social environment. The authors suggest that the mechanism involved is the perception-behavior link, the recently documented finding (e.g., J. A. Bargh, M. Chen, & L. Burrows, 1996) that the mere perception of another' s behavior automatically increases the likelihood of engaging in that behavior oneself Experiment 1 showed that the motor behavior of participants unintentionally matched that of strangers with whom they worked on a task. Experiment 2 had confederates mimic the posture and movements of participants and showed that mimicry facilitates the smoothness of interactions and increases liking between interaction partners. Experiment 3 showed that dispositionally empathic individuals exhibit the chameleon effect to a greater extent than do other people.
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Investigated whether a counselor who was mirror imaging a congruent arm and leg position of a client would significantly increase the client's perception of the counselor's level of empathy over the level of the client's perception when the counselor did not mirror image congruent arm and leg position. 80 high school juniors met individually with a counselor for 15 min to discuss career plans. Three variables were controlled for: counselor's direct body orientation, position of counselor's head, and empathy level of the counselor's verbal responses. The dependent variable was the Empathy subscale of the Barrett-Lennard Relationship Inventory. ANOVA results showed that clients rated the counselor as having a significantly greater level of empathy in the congruent than in the noncongruent condition. (23 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Investigates the social importance of the individual's speech style, discussing "linguistic norms" with reference to a variety of cultures and research sources. Endogenous and exogenous factors in speech style are discussed, and a tentative theory to explain speech modification is proposed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Two experiments investigated the idea that mimicry leads to pro-social behavior. It was hypothesized that mimicking the verbal behavior of customers would increase the size of tips. In Experiment 1, a waitress either mimicked half her customers by literally repeating their order or did not mimic her customers. It was found that she received significantly larger tips when she mimicked her customers than when she did not. In Experiment 2, in addition to a mimicry- and non-mimicry condition, a baseline condition was included in which the average tip was assessed prior to the experiment. The results indicated that, compared to the baseline, mimicry leads to larger tips. These results demonstrate that mimicry can be advantageous for the imitator because it can make people more generous.