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
Save to active project

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.



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).


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.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Impact of Guilt on Mimicry Behavior


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?