New research provides evidence that increased self-focus during new social interactions is associated with reduced behavioral imitation. Cypost Quoted from Personality Research.
“Behavioral imitation – automatically copying the actions of others – is thought to be adaptive because it elicits social interest, increases mutual admiration and facilitates smooth social interactions,” said researcher Professor Christy Paul, a professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo.
New social interactions
“As shy individuals become irritable during new social interactions, the team of researchers wanted to investigate whether shy individuals are more susceptible to this adaptive social behavior and the mechanisms that explain this relationship,” Professor Ball added.
150 undergraduate students participated in a recorded Zoom session with a researcher who asked five standardized questions and performed a pre-programmed behavior each time the question was asked. Participants were told that the aim of the study was to examine how personality traits relate to perceptions of online sites, to mask the true purpose of the study.
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Participants then completed a self-focused attention assessment and reported their agreement or disagreement with statements such as “I focused on my own internal reactions” and “I focused on the impression I made on the other person.”
After systematically coding the Zoom sessions, the researchers found that 42% of participants followed the researcher at least once. Participants with higher levels of shyness tended to report higher levels of self-focus during the session, as well as being less likely to exhibit behavioral imitations.
Professor Paul said Cypost “The study found that college students with higher levels of shyness were less likely to follow the experimenter’s behaviors during online social interactions, which was explained by higher levels of self-focus during the interactions,” he said.
Understanding this result, Professor Ball explained, “indicates that shy individuals may direct their attention inward during new social interactions (for example, focusing on their rapid heart rate), which may block attention that should be given to the social partner and play. ultimately a role in reducing their likelihood of engaging in behavioral simulation.”
“The study examined the relationships between shyness, self-focus, and behavioral imitation during unfamiliar social interactions. An interesting future direction is to examine whether similar effects emerge in the context of interactions with familiar others, such as friends or family. Self-focus may not be heightened during interactions, meaning behavioral imitation may not be affected in this context.”
“The Chameleon Effect”
Professor Paul added, “Behavioral mimicry is measured in an active social context, where the participant is expected and asked to respond to the researcher’s questions,” explaining that the team of researchers hypothesized that “the individual can play in more passive social contexts. An observant role, that is shyness, integrates with the social context and pays attention.” As a way to stay away from may be associated with more behavioral mimicry, some previous researchers have referred to the mixed activity of mimicking behavior as the “chameleon effect.”
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