Status and power do not modulate automatic imitation of intransitive hand movements

Harry Farmer, Evan W. Carr, Marita Svartdal, Piotr Winkielman, Antonia F.C. De Hamilton

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10 Citations (SciVal)


The tendency to mimic the behaviour of others is affected by a variety of social factors, and it has been argued that such "mirroring" is often unconsciously deployed as a means of increasing affiliation during interpersonal interactions. However, the relationship between automatic motor imitation and status/power is currently unclear. This paper reports five experiments that investigated whether social status (Experiments 1, 2, and3) or power (Experiments 4 and 5) had a moderating effect on automatic imitation (AI) in finger-movement tasks, using a series of different manipulations. Experiments 1 and 2 manipulated the social status of the observed person using an associative learning task. Experiment 3 manipulated social status via perceived competence at a simple computer game. Experiment 4 manipulated participants' power (relative to the actors) in a card-choosing task. Finally, Experiment 5 primed participants using a writing task, to induce the sense of being powerful or powerless. No significant interactions were found between congruency and social status/power in any of the studies. Additionally, Bayesian hypothesis testing indicated that the null hypothesis should be favoured over the experimental hypothesis in all five studies. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for AI tasks, social effects on mimicry, and the hypothesis of mimicry as a strategic mechanism to promote affiliation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0151835
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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