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Running head: AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 1
The Affiliative Consequences of Same-Race and Cross-Race Mimicry
Elizabeth A. Majkaa, Michael W. Whitea, LaVaun A. Bowlinga, Rosa M. Garciaa, Taylor L.
Skinnera, Kyle F. Bennetta, Michael J. Bernsteinb, & Jessica J. Sima
aElmhurst College, bPenn State University Abington
The Version of Record of this manuscript has been published and is available in The Journal of
Social Psychology, 2020, http://www.tandfonline.com/,
Elizabeth A. Majka; Department of Psychology, Elmhurst College; 190 S Prospect Ave,
Elmhurst, IL, 60126; firstname.lastname@example.org
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 2
Few studies have replicated and extended the classic mimicry à liking effect. The present
research sought to (a) replicate the affiliative consequences of mimicry; (b) test whether the
affiliative consequences hold in a context where mimicry may not be normative (i.e., cross-race
interactions); and (c) investigate how excluded individuals respond to same- versus cross-race
mimicry and non-mimicry. Participants wrote about a control topic or social exclusion and then
engaged in a brief laboratory interaction in which they were mimicked or not mimicked by a
confederate who was either same-race or cross-race. Then they reported how much they liked the
confederate. Within the control condition, the effect of mimicry on affiliation depended on the
race of the confederate—but this pattern did not emerge for excluded individuals. The study was
unable to conclusively replicate and extend previous findings. The authors make
recommendations to promote a more cumulative science of behavioral mimicry.
Keywords: social interaction, race, impression formation
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 3
The Affiliative Consequences of Same-Race and Cross-Race Mimicry
When we interact with a friend, we may cross our legs when she does (i.e., behavioral
mimicry), adjust our stride with hers when walking down the street (i.e., entrainment/synchrony),
or work together to carry a new sofa into her apartment (i.e., coordination). These forms of co-
actions pervade social interactions (Semin & Cacioppo, 2008) and much research in social
psychology has investigated the dynamic interplay among bodily movements and features of the
social context. The focus of the present research is behavioral mimicry—“when two or more
people engage in the same behavior at the same time” (Chartrand & Lakin, 2013, p. 286). Such
behaviors can vary widely, including full body movements like leaning forward or backward, to
more fine movements like head scratching. The specific aims of the present research were to (a)
replicate the affiliative consequences of mimicry; (b) test whether the affiliative consequences
hold in a context where mimicry may not be normative (i.e., cross-race interactions); and (c)
investigate how social excluded individuals respond to same- versus cross-race mimicry and
Mimicry and Affiliation
Mimicry has been described as a form of “social glue” (Lakin, Jefferis, Cheng, &
Chartrand, 2003, p. 147) that can facilitate smooth social interactions (for reviews, see Chartrand
& Lakin, 2013; Chartrand & van Baaren, 2009). The literature on behavioral mimicry suggests
that people mimic others when they want to be liked (e.g., Lakin & Chartrand, 2003; Lakin,
Chartrand, & Arkin, 2008) and that people like others who mimic them (e.g., Chartrand &
Bargh, 1999). In the oft-cited Experiment 2 (N = 72 across two conditions; 37 in the mimicking
condition, 35 in the control condition) of Chartrand and Bargh (1999), the researchers found that
participants liked a confederate more when she mimicked them than when she did not. While this
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 4
hypothesis may seem intuitive, closer inspection of the literature reveals that the original study
has only been replicated a handful of times (e.g., Kouszakova, Karremans, van Baaren, & van
Knippenberg, 2010; Kulsesza, Donski, & Wicher, 2016). Given the prevalence of the mimicry à
liking link in literature, the first aim of the present research was to replicate Experiment 2 of
Chartrand and Bargh (1999), with the prediction that people would like those who mimic them
more than those who do not mimic them.
More recent work has argued that mimicry is schema-driven (Dalton, Chartrand, &
Finkel, 2010). Specifically, some contexts are considered normative for mimicry (e.g., by a
friend) and non-mimicry (e.g., by an enemy) whereas other contexts are considered
counternormative (e.g., mimicry by an enemy; non-mimicry by a friend). Thus, mimicry and
non-mimicry may be perceived differently based on the social context with downstream
consequences for behavior. Dalton and colleagues (Experiment 3, N = 77 across four conditions),
for example, found that participants assigned to be “leaders” performed worse on a Stroop task
when the confederate (assigned the complementary role) did not mimic them compared with
when they did. However, participants assigned to be “workers” experienced greater Stroop
interference when the confederate mimicked them compared with when they did not. Dalton and
colleagues argue that the confederate’s body language violated the schema for how low- and
high-power individuals should behave, rendering the interaction more effortful.
Cross-race interactions are another domain where counternormative mimicry has been
explored. Cross-race interactions are often experienced as stressful and effortful (e.g., Richeson
& Trawalter, 2005) and people even tend to move less during these interactions (Richeson &
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 5
Shelton, 2003). Building on this, Dalton and colleagues (2010; Experiment 2, N = 92 across four
conditions) found that participants who interacted with a same-race confederate performed better
on a Stroop task if the confederate mimicked them (vs. did not mimic them). However,
participants who interacted with a cross-race confederate showed the opposite pattern,
performing worse on the Stroop task if the confederate mimicked them (vs. did not mimic them).
These findings suggest that cross-race mimicry is schema-inconsistent as the interaction
demands attentional resources.
Along the same lines, assuming that suspicious nonverbal cues from others elicit
embodied feelings of coldness, Leander and colleagues (Leander, Chartrand, & Bargh, 2012;
Study 3, N = 52 across four conditions) found that participants interacting with a cross-race
confederate made lower room temperature estimates when they were mimicked (vs. not
mimicked). On the other hand, participants interacting with a same-race confederate made lower
room temperature estimates when they were not mimicked (vs. mimicked).
Taken together, these studies suggest that people seem to dislike someone of another race
who mirrors their movements—such interactions “wear them out” (Dalton et al., 2010) and “give
them the chills” (Leander et al., 2012; but see Sanchez-Burks, Bartel, & Blount, 2009; Yabar &
Hess, 2007). However, these conclusions are based on two studies with varying levels of
statistical power (sample sizes included where pertinent). It should also be noted that neither of
these studies investigated explicit reactions to same- and cross-race mimicry and non-mimicry.
Therefore, the second aim of the present research was to investigate whether the findings of
Dalton et al. (2010) and Leander et al. (2012) extend to explicit affiliation ratings. We predicted
that people would like same-race partners more when mimicked by them (vs. not mimicked). At
Neither of the pairwise comparisons in Study 3 of Leander et al. (2012) met conventional levels of statistical
significance (p < .05).
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 6
the same time, we expected a reversal for cross-race interactions such that people would like
cross-race partners less when mimicked by them (vs. not mimicked).
Social Exclusion and Affiliation
Research has shown that people have a fundamental need to belong (Baumeister & Leary,
1995; Fiske, 2018). When excluded, people may exhibit a variety of responses including fight,
flight, freeze, or tend-and-befriend (Gerber & Wheeler, 2009; Williams, 2007). Individuals with
heightened belonging needs also seem especially attuned to social information and nonverbal
social cues. For instance, excluded individuals tend to pay more attention to individuating social
information than do non-excluded individuals (Claypool & Bernstein, 2014; for a review, see
Claypool & Bernstein, 2019). They are faster to orient to others’ eyes—a facial feature
particularly relevant to social interactions (Wilkowski, Robinson, & Freisen, 2009), are better at
discriminating between genuine and fake smiles (Bernstein, Young, Brown, Sacco, & Claypool,
2008), and report a greater preference for working with individuals who display genuine (vs.
fake) smiles (Bernstein, Sacco, Brown, Young, & Claypool, 2010). Taken together, these
findings suggest that excluded individuals might not perceive cross-race mimicry as “suspicious”
or “inappropriate” (Leander et al., 2012). Instead, due to their social motivation, excluded
individuals may like those who mimic them, regardless of their partner’s race.
Therefore, the third aim of the present research was to investigate how socially excluded
individuals respond to same- and cross-race mimicry and non-mimicry. In contrast to our
predictions for non-excluded individuals, we expected that excluded individuals would like both
same- and cross-race partners more when their partners mimic them than when they do not.
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 7
The Present Research
In the current study participants wrote about a control topic or social exclusion and then
engaged in a brief laboratory interaction in which they were mimicked or not mimicked by a
confederate who was either same-race or cross-race. At the end of the study, participants
reported how much they liked the confederate.
Overall, we hypothesized that the effects of same- and cross-race mimicry and non-
mimicry would depend on whether participants were in the control or exclusion condition (i.e., a
three-way confederate behavior x confederate race x reliving task interaction). Among
participants in the control condition, we expected to conceptually replicate previous research
(e.g., Chartrand & Bargh, 1999, Experiment 2; Dalton et al., 2010, Experiment 2; Leander et al.,
2012, Study 3). Specifically, we hypothesized that after writing about a control topic,
participants would (a) like same-race confederates more when they mimicked them than when
they did not; but (b) like cross-race confederates more when they did not mimic them than when
they did (i.e., a simple two-way confederate behavior x confederate race interaction). We did not
expect this pattern of findings to emerge for participants who wrote about social exclusion.
Among participants in the social exclusion condition, we hypothesized that participants would
like both same-race and cross-race confederates who mimicked them more than confederates
who did not mimic them (i.e., a main effect of reliving task).
One-hundred forty-four undergraduate students (116 females, 27 males, 1 participant who
identified gender as “other”) participated in the study in exchange for partial course credit.
Participants identified their race as follows: White (n = 105), Multiracial (n = 15), Black/African
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 8
American (n = 9), Asian (n = 8), American Indian/Alaska Native (n = 1), and race unknown (n =
The sample size reflects efforts to obtain the largest sample possible during the course of one
The study took the form of a 2 (confederate behavior: mimicry vs. no mimicry) x 2
(confederate race: same-race vs. cross-race) x 2 (reliving task: exclusion vs. control) between-
subjects design. The primary dependent measure was participants’ feelings of affiliation towards
Materials and Procedure
Participants were told the purpose of the study was to investigate reactions to everyday
life circumstances and would involve a written task, a partner discussion, and a brief survey. All
study materials and data are available on Open Science Framework.
After providing informed consent, participants were randomly assigned to write for 5
minutes about a time they felt intensely rejected (exclusion condition) or to describe their
morning routine on the previous day (control condition). Reliving tasks of this nature have been
used in previous research to successfully manipulate social exclusion (e.g., Pickett, Gardner, &
Knowles, 2004). Blind to their reliving task condition, one research assistant read participant
responses to ensure they had followed instructions.
Following the reliving task, participants completed measures of belonging (“I feel like an
outsider” and “I feel rejected;” both items reverse scored then averaged together, α = .90) and
self-esteem (“I feel good about myself” and “I feel my self-esteem is high”, which were averaged
One additional participant (a male in the rejection, no mimicry condition) took part in the study but left the race
question blank. As a result, his data were unusable.
For materials and data: https://osf.io/t5s68/?view_only=3b321e98da3e4f0b8e6258d1e6a0a080
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 9
together, α = .90). These items were used as a brief manipulation check to ensure that the
exclusion manipulation threatened core social needs (e.g., Jamieson et al., 2010). Items were
answered on a 1 (not at all) to 5 (extremely) scale.
After the reliving task, participants engaged in the “partner discussion” task with a
partner whom they assumed was another participant (see Chartrand & Bargh, 1999). In fact,
participants were randomly assigned to interact with a college-aged female research confederate
who was either White or Black. In light of the participants’ self-reported race, the interaction
with the confederate was categorized as same-race or cross-race.
Confederates were blind to the
participants’ reliving task conditions.
During the “partner discussion,” the participant and confederate were seated at a short
table with a stack of six photos and were instructed to discuss their thoughts and feelings in
response to the photos—a common method used to provide a context in which to manipulate
mimicry (e.g., Chartrand & Bargh, 1999; Dalton et al., 2010; Leander et al., 2012). Following a
loose script (complete with pauses, “ums”, etc.), the confederate always described photo 1, 3,
and 5, talking for about 30 seconds per photo. Photos were stock images from the internet and
depicted a range of social and non-social images (i.e., gym, classroom, farm, scientist, man with
dog, beach). Importantly, when the participant discussed images 2, 4, and 6, the confederate
implemented the mimicry manipulation. In the mimicry condition, the confederate subtly
imitated the participant, including physical posture, gestures, leg movements, hair touching, and
so forth (see Chartrand & Bargh, 1999, Dalton et al, 2010). In the no mimicry condition, the
We also included several “filler” items to support the cover story that we were interested in everyday life
experiences. To this end, participants indicated how hungry, sick, happy, sad, and warm they felt.
The White confederate was coded as same-race for participants who identified as White (n = 55). The Black
confederate was coded as same-race for participants who identified as Black (n = 5). The confederate for all other
participant/confederate combinations was coded as cross-race (n = 84). This method was based on similar methods
by other researchers (Dalton et al., 2010, Experiment 2).
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 10
confederate sat with her hands folded casually in her lap. Confederates practiced extensively on
several pilot participants and fellow research assistants to ensure their behavior was consistent
and appeared natural.
Last, participants completed a final survey, which contained the remaining measures. To
assess partner affiliation, participants completed two items (“To what extent do you find the
other participant likeable/friendly?,” “To what extent do you feel similar to the other
participant?”) on a 1 (not all) to 7 (very much) scale. They were averaged together prior to
analyses (α = .80).
Reliving Task Manipulation Check
The results from two independent samples t-tests suggest the reliving task was successful
in manipulating social exclusion. Participants who relived an instance of social exclusion
reported lower levels of belonging (M = 2.32, SD = 1.30) and self-esteem (M = 1.78, SD = .97)
than those in the control condition (Mbelonging = 4.76, SD = .46; Mself-esteem = 3.25, SD = .94), t(142)
= 15.13, p < .001, d = 2.53, and t(142) = 9.24, p < .001, d = 1.55, respectively.
We first present the results from null-hypothesis significance tests (see Table 1 for means
and confidence intervals). Next, we report results from equivalence tests (Lakens, Scheel, &
Isager, 2018). Following convention, we use an alpha of .05 for our analyses unless otherwise
noted to correct for multiple comparisons.
A few other items assessing participants’ perceptions of the confederate and experimenter were also included to
serve as filler items surrounding the key affiliation items. In addition, participants completed ratings of the six
photos that were discussed to support the cover story.
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 11
Null-hypothesis significance testing. We first conducted a 2 (confederate behavior:
mimicry vs. no mimicry) x 2 (confederate race: same-race vs. cross-race) x 2 (reliving task:
exclusion vs. control) between-subjects Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) with affiliation as the
dependent variable. As predicted, a significant three-way interaction emerged, F(1, 136) = 5.72,
p = .018,
= .04. No other effects were significant, all ps ≥ .26. To decompose the three-way
interaction (see Howell & Lacroix, 2012), we examined the 2 (confederate behavior) x 2
(confederate race) interaction in each reliving task condition (i.e., the simple interaction effects).
Consistent with hypotheses, a two-way interaction emerged in the control condition, F(1,
136) = 5.60, p = .019,
= .034, which we followed with two second-order simple effect tests.
Contrary to hypotheses, participants in the control condition did not report significantly greater
feelings of affiliation for a same-race confederate who mimicked them (M = 4.85, SD = 1.26)
compared with one who did not mimic them (M = 4.18, SD = 1.03), F(1, 136) = 2.44, p = .12,
= .0018. We also did not find evidence that participants in the control condition reported
significantly lower feelings of affiliation for a cross-race confederate who mimicked them (M =
4.13, SD = 1.22) compared with one who did not (M = 4.80, SD = .90), F(1, 136) = 3.29, p = .07,
= .0024. Within the exclusion condition, none of the effects were significant, including the
predicted main effect of confederate behavior. Participants did not report significantly greater
affiliation for a confederate who mimicked them (M = 4.86, SD = 1.31) compared with one who
did not mimic them (M = 4.34, SD = 1.24), F(1,136) = 2.59, p = .11,
Equivalence testing. Although several of our predicted effects were not statistically
different from zero (i.e., nonsignificant null-hypothesis tests), we might not have had sufficient
To correct for multiple comparisons, we controlled the false discovery rate using the Benjamini-Hochberg
procedure (Benjamini & Hochberg, 1995). Alphas presented in the text are unadjusted, but were compared to
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 12
statistical power to detect meaningful effects. To examine whether meaningful effects were truly
absent, we performed equivalence testing using the two one-sided tests (TOST) procedure
(Lakens, 2017). An equivalence test examines whether the difference observed between groups
is at least as extreme as the smallest effect size of interest (SESOI; see Lakens, Scheel, & Isager,
2018 for a tutorial on equivalence testing). If we can reject the hypothesis that the observed
effect size falls outside the lower (
) and upper (
) equivalence bounds as determined by the
SESOI, then the observed effect would be considered statistically equivalent (i.e., the effect size
falls within the equivalence bounds). Stated simply, a significant equivalence test indicates the
absence of a meaningful effect.
We set our SESOI to the standardized effect size (also known as critical effect size
derived from the original mimicry à liking study (Chartrand & Bargh, 1999; Experiment 2).
The original study has served as the basis for subsequent research in this area and for the work
described in the present research. Using the TOSTER spreadsheet (Lakens, 2017), we performed
the TOST procedure for Welch’s t test for independent samples, with equivalence bounds of
= -0.56 and
= 0.56, for the three critical comparisons that were not significant using null-
hypothesis significance testing.
First, the null-hypothesis test indicated that participants in the control condition did not
report significantly greater affiliation for a same-race confederate who mimicked them (vs. one
who did not). The TOST equivalence test revealed that the observed effect size (d = 0.58) was
not significantly within the equivalence bounds, t(29) = 0.09, p = .534.
Second, participants in
This is the smallest observed effect size that could have been statistically significant in the previous study. See
Lakens et al. (2018) for information on how to determine the SESOI.
We controlled the false discovery rate using the Benjamini-Hochberg procedure (Benjamini & Hochberg, 1995).
Unadjusted alphas are presented in the text.
Only the one-sided test yielding the higher p value is reported because both tests need to be statistically significant
to infer statistical equivalence (Lakens et al., 2018).
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 13
the control condition did not report significantly lower feelings of affiliation towards a cross-race
confederate who mimicked them (vs. one who did not). The equivalence test indicated that the
observed effect size (d = 0.63) was not significantly within the equivalence bounds, t(34.58) =
0.22, p = .588. Finally, participants in the exclusion condition did not report greater affiliation
overall towards confederates who mimicked them (vs. did not). The equivalence test revealed
that the observed effect (d = 0.41) was not significantly within the equivalence bounds, t(68.95)
= 0.62, p = .267. Because the equivalence tests were not significant, we cannot reject the
hypothesis that the true effects are at least as extreme as the equivalence bounds. In other words,
we cannot conclude that the observed effects are statistically equivalent.
One of the most prominent themes in the literature on behavioral mimicry is the
relationship between mimicry and affiliation. Many studies have built upon the classic finding of
Chartrand and Bargh (1999; Experiment 2), who demonstrated that people like others who mimic
them more than those who do not. The first aim of the present research was to replicate this
effect as only a few studies have done so (e.g., Kouszakova et al., 2010; Kulsesza et al., 2016).
Recent work in this domain suggests that the mimicry à liking effect may only occur in contexts
that are normative for mimicry (Dalton et al., 2010; Leander et al., 2010). Therefore, the second
aim was to test the affiliative effects of mimicry and non-mimicry in normative (i.e., same-race
interactions) and counternormative (i.e., cross-race interactions) contexts. Finally, the third aim
of the present study was to test how socially excluded individuals respond to same- and cross-
race mimicry. Given their social motivation, we expected that socially excluded individuals
would like others who mimic them more than those who do not, regardless of their partner’s
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 14
Regrettably, our data are not definitive. Within the control reliving task condition, null-
hypothesis significance testing revealed the effect of mimicry on liking did depend on the race
and behavior of the confederate, as we had predicted. However, the simple effect comparisons
were not statistically significant—participants did not like same-race partners more when their
partners mimicked them (vs. did not), nor did they like cross-race partners less when their
partners mimicked them (vs. did not). We also did not find evidence that socially excluded
individuals liked same- and cross-race partners who mimicked them more than those who did
not. Due to the labor-intensive study design (i.e., individual 30 min sessions requiring three
research assistants to coordinate logistics, participant arrival, and the experimental
manipulation), we were unable to recruit as many participants as we would have liked. As a
result, our small sample size may have restricted our power to replicate and extend previous
findings in the literature. Nevertheless, the current study’s effect size estimates can contribute to
future meta-analytic efforts to evaluate the mimicry à liking effect.
The nonsignificant null-hypothesis tests, however, do not necessarily imply the absence
of meaningful effects. Equivalence testing on the above effects suggest that the observed effect
sizes were not statistically equivalent. Because the observed effects were neither statistically
different from zero (from null-hypothesis testing) nor statistically equivalent (from equivalence
testing), further studies are needed to draw conclusions about the robustness of the classic
mimicry à liking effect and its extensions to schema-driven interactions and re-affiliation.
Although not conclusive, this study provides suggestive evidence that (a) in a neutral
context, the effect of mimicry on liking may depend on partner race (conveyed by the significant
two-way interaction in the control condition), and (b) excluded individuals may respond
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 15
differently to same- and cross-race mimicry relative to non-excluded individuals (conveyed by
the significant three-way interaction). Following up on these questions is an important avenue for
future research. Researchers should also be mindful of the distinction between one’s race and
racial identity when examining same-race vs. cross-race effects. For example, multiracial
participants may perceive the interaction differently based on their own racial/ethnic
identification and may be perceived differently by their partners based on their physical
appearance. Research should also account for the possibility that racial minorities may feel more
similar to the African American confederate during the interaction than to the White confederate.
Just as scholars have noted for the related field of behavioral synchrony (Lakens,
Schubert, & Palladino, 2015), reproducibility might be a concern for the mimicry literature due
to possible publication bias and low-powered research designs (Fraley & Vazire, 2014;
Kughberger, Fritz, & Scherndl, 2014; Simmons, Nelson, & Simonsohn, 2011). Underpowered
studies can lead to false positives, particularly when researchers test multiple hypotheses in an
exploratory fashion (Maxwell, 2004). To improve research on mimicry, we recommend that
researchers: 1) adopt study designs that balance the need for sufficient power and real-world
constraints; 2) conduct both direct and conceptual replications (Crandall & Sherman, 2016); 3)
implement open science practices (e.g., pre-registered protocols, registered reports; Nosek &
Lakens, 2014; Open Science Collaboration, 2012; Simmons et al., 2011); and 4) videotape
experimental sessions to demonstrate adherence to experimental protocols and to allow future
researchers to investigate new research questions that may be examined through behavioral
coding (e.g., postures, gestures, mannerisms). Taken together, these practices will facilitate a
more cumulative science of behavioral mimicry.
AFFILIATION AND SAME- AND CROSS-RACE MIMICRY 16
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Affiliation as a Function of Reliving Task, Confederate Behavior, and Confederate Race
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