Unintentional Mirroring: The Chameleon Effect
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Have you ever noticed that you sometimes you lean forward when someone you’re talking with leans forward? Or you fold your arms when your friend folds their arm?
The Chameleon Effect is the unintentional physical and verbal mirroring between people who are getting along well. People may mimic each others’ body posture, hand gestures, speaking accents, and other behaviors when they are in rapport. The body is actually autonomously making the interaction smoother and increasing the level of liking while communicating.
Experimenters saw an increase in a subject’s behavior, such as shaking their foot, when they shook their foot during an interaction. When experimenters intentionally copied the mannerisms of a subject, the subject reported to like the experimenter more and claimed the interaction was more harmonious. Empathic individuals, those who took the perspective of others, were also found to mirror another person’s action more often.
Chartrand, T. L. & Bargh, J. A. (1999). The Chameleon Effect: The Perception-Behavior Link and Social Interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(6), 893-910.