Understanding the role of the ‘self’ in the social priming of mimicry
Wang, Yin and Hamilton, Antonia F. de C. (2013) Understanding the role of the ‘self’ in the social priming of mimicry. PLoS ONE, 8 (4). e60249/1-e60249/11. ISSN 1932-6203
People have a tendency to unconsciously mimic other's actions. This mimicry has been regarded as a prosocial response which increases social affiliation. Previous research on social priming of mimicry demonstrated an assimilative relationship between mimicry and prosociality of the primed construct: prosocial primes elicit stronger mimicry whereas antisocial primes decrease mimicry. The present research extends these findings by showing that assimilative and contrasting prime-to-behavior effect can both happen on mimicry. Specifically, experiment 1 showed a robust contrast priming effect where priming antisocial behaviors induces stronger mimicry than priming prosocial behaviors. In experiment 2, we manipulated the self-relatedness of the pro/antisocial primes and further revealed that prosocial primes increase mimicry only when the social primes are self-related whereas antisocial primes increase mimicry only when the social primes are self-unrelated. In experiment 3, we used a novel cartoon movie paradigm to prime pro/antisocial behaviors and manipulated the perspective-taking when participants were watching these movies. Again, we found that prosocial primes increase mimicry only when participants took a first-person point of view whereas antisocial primes increase mimicry only when participants took a third-person point of view, which replicated the findings in experiment 2. We suggest that these three studies can be best explained by the active-self theory, which claims that the direction of prime-to-behavior effects depends on how primes are processed in relation to the ‘self’.
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