Psychology: Imitating the other person increases the popularity of getting to know each other

“Social chameleons” make themselves popular with others

When we meet someone for the first time, it often doesn't take long to know whether we like the other or not. If you like the first impression of the other person, the probability increases that we imitate this specific person. German researchers have now found that out.

The first impression of the other person

Last year, scientists from the renowned Havard University reported on a study that showed that two questions play a central role that everyone subconsciously asks themselves when they first meet someone they have never met before: "How trustworthy does my counterpart appear?" And " How competent do I rate the other person? ”If the first impression of the other person is positive, the probability increases that we imitate this specific person. Researchers from the University of Leipzig and the Free University of Berlin found this out in a joint study.

Effects on mutual sympathy assessments

Nowadays, a lot of people get to know each other via dating apps like Tinder, but the first personal contact is usually of great importance. It obviously helps to act in a similar way to your counterpart.

Because people who imitate others when they get to know each other make themselves popular - at least within their own gender.

This is the result of a study by scientists from the Free University of Berlin and the University of Leipzig, which has now been published in the renowned journal "Psychological Science".

As part of the scientific work, the researchers analyzed the imitation behavior when getting to know each other. For this purpose, 139 people who previously did not know each other were invited to the laboratory in same-sex groups of four to six participants.

Each of them then held five-minute introductory discussions with each of the other group members. Before and after each person indicated how sympathetic he or she found the other person.

On the basis of the video recordings of these conversations, differences in imitation behavior and its effects on mutual sympathy assessments were then analyzed.

"Social Chameleons"

The results show that people differ in their tendency to imitate their interaction partners. So there are people who show hardly any imitation behavior, while other people particularly often imitate others.

In the research literature, they are referred to as so-called “social chameleons”.

"In our study, we can show that this imitation behavior made these social chameleons more popular," explains psychologist Helén Liebermann from the Free University of Berlin in a statement.

Imitation gives the other person the feeling of being liked

On the other hand, there was little evidence that people differ in that they generally trigger mimicry in others. Rather, the study showed that mimicry depends primarily on the unique relationship between two people.

If you like the first impression of the other person, the probability increases that we imitate this specific person.

This imitation or mimicry gives the imitated person the feeling of being liked and leads to the imitating person being perceived as more sympathetic.

“The results indicate a mimicry binding mechanism. Through mimicry, we subconsciously communicate that we like someone and can thus increase our own popularity, ”explains Maike Salazar Kämpf from the University of Leipzig.

Strategy with downsides

So if you already have sympathy anyway, you are more involved with others. The spontaneous imitation of the verbal and non-verbal behavior of the other person - social mimicry - is an unconscious strategy to build relationships with other people.

However, this also has downsides, as researchers from the University of Leiden in Enschede in the Netherlands found in an experiment in 2009. Her study with 92 participants showed that people who imitate others are more easily misled by others.

“Mimicry makes it easier to understand what others feel,” wrote the scientist led by psychologist Marielle Stel at the time. But "In the case of fraudulent messages, mimicry hinders this emotional understanding." (Ad)

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