The Impact of Guilt on Mimicry Behavior

By Martin, Angelique; Gueguen, Nicolas et al. | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, August 2010 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Guilt on Mimicry Behavior


Martin, Angelique, Gueguen, Nicolas, Fischer-Lokou, Jacques, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


Mimicry, also called the "chameleon effect" (Chartrand & Bargh, 1999), refers to unconscious imitation of behaviors such as postures, facial expressions, mannerisms, and other verbal and nonverbal behaviors. Researchers have shown that in social interaction, people mimic a host of verbal and nonverbal behaviors of their counterparts (Bavelas, Black, Lemery, & Mullet, 1986, 1987; Giles & Powesland, 1975; LaFrance, 1982). This mimicry is explained by a perception-behavior link theory (Chartrand & Bargh, 1999; Dijksterhuis & Bargh, 2001) arguing that seeing someone engaged in a behavior activates that behavioral representation which, in return, leads the perceiver to engage himself or herself in that behavior. Mimicry is also explained in terms of rapport and liking. Chartrand and Bargh (1999) found that participants who were mimicked by a confederate reported liking the confederate more than those who were not mimicked. Lakin and Chartrand (2003) found that affiliation goals were associated with higher levels of mimicry behavior. Participants primed with words related to the concept of affiliation (friend, partner) expressed greater level of mimicry than those primed with neutral words. Lakin and Chartrand also found that participants who unsuccessfully attempted to affiliate in a first interaction, exhibited more mimicry behavior in a later second interaction with another confederate, than participants who experienced successful affiliation in the first interaction. Thus, if the desire for affiliation with somebody enhances mimicry behavior, we can speculate that guilt could trigger the same reaction. Researchers of several studies found that people who experienced feelings of guilt after a first social interaction with somebody--because they had been instructed to tell a lie (Freedman, Wallington, & Bless, 1967) or to deliver electric shocks (Carlsmith & Gross, 1969)--were more likely to respond to an opportunity for altruism occurring in a second social interaction with someone else. It was concluded that the effect of guilt on altruism would be a tendency to expiate the guilt by doing something good for somebody. However, other factors are probably affected by guilt, especially affiliation behavior. When guilt is experienced after a social interaction and when no possibility is offered to expiate this feeling, an individual probably feels intraindividual motivation to succeed in a further social interaction and be perceived positively by his/her counterpart. Given the link between mimicry and the desire to create affiliation, we hypothesized that guilt would enhance mimicry behavior.

METHOD

PARTICIPANTS

The participants were 44 female undergraduate business students, all aged between 18 and 20, who were randomly assigned to the experimental conditions (guilt, no guilt).

PROCEDURE

Upon arrival at the laboratory office, the participant was first instructed by a female assistant to fill in a short form (names, address, age, place of residence, phone and email contact details). In the meantime, the assistant used her telephone to call a female confederate waiting in another room (letting the telephone ring twice before hanging up). The participant was instructed to walk down to the laboratory room at the far end of a long narrow corridor after the office. The confederate was waiting in her office with her door open. Her office was situated halfway down of the corridor. When the participant neared her office, the confederate came out of her office with a pile of copies in her arms, bumped into the participant, and dropped the copies on the floor. In the guilt condition, the confederate, while collecting her copies on the floor and without looking at the participant, was instructed to say "Can't you be more careful when you walk? All my copies are mixed up now and I have to get them in order and file them again in two minutes". Once she had said that, and finished picking up her copies, the confederate stood up and walked away in the opposite direction of the participant. …

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