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The Psychology of Mirroring

The Psychology of Mirroring

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery or so the old saying goes! However, whether you think it is complimentary or annoying that someone is dressing, standing or speaking the same as you there is a reason behind it. Scientifically, it’s called limbic synchrony. From an evolutionary perspective, being in-sync with members of your group was vital for survival. Imitation is present before we are even born; babies heartbeats take on the same rhythm as their mothers.

Mirroring is something we do with people we like or are interested in- we copy their body language, speech, facial expression and more. Mirroring body language is a non-verbal way to show empathy. It signals that we are connected to that person in some way. A set of specific nerve cells in the brain called mirror neurons are responsible for mirroring. One common situation occurs when a person laughs. Scientists have found that the brain responds to the sound of laughter and prepares the muscles in the face to also laugh. Other examples of mimicking behaviours include crossing your legs after someone you’re sitting next to does so, or yawning after you see someone else yawn. It is a powerful tool that we use automatically without even being aware of it.

Mirroring as a sign of trust

When you are out with family or a group of friends at a restaurant it is common for each person to ask what the other is ordering. They ask this before the person orders as they try to mirror their meals. Another common thing you may observe is couples walking in step. In these case’s imitating someone is a sign of comfort and trust and it shows that people are in sync.

The whole point of mirroring is that it’s a way to better understand others and connect with them. Being able to mirror someone is the same as being able to listen to someone. The next time you are somewhere where there is a lot of human interaction, notice the number of people who are mimicking the gestures and posture of the person they’re talking to. You will be astounded!



Written by Rebekka Johnston