Imitation can sometimes reflect badly on your reputation

Washington: In popular culture, mirroring is frequently urged on people as a strategy - for flirting or having a successful date, for closing a sale or acing a job interview.

But a new research has suggested that mirroring may not always lead to positive social outcomes, it sometimes comes at the cost of one’s reputation.

Piotr Winkielman and Liam Kavanagh of the psychology department at the University of California, San Diego, along with the University philosophers Christopher Suhler and Patricia Churchland, note that in real-life situations there are often observers to the mirroring that takes place between two people.

They showed that in the eyes of the outside observers, the imitators of the undesirable model incurred reputational costs – their unconsciously observed mirroring registered as a kind of error.

“Mimicry is a crucial part of social intelligence,” said Winkielman, UC San Diego professor of psychology.

“But it is not enough to simply know how to mimic. It’s also important to know when and when not to.

“The success of mirroring depends on mirroring the right people at the right time for the right reasons. Sometimes the socially intelligent thing to do is not to imitate.

“It’s good to have the capacity to mimic, but an important part of social intelligence is knowing how to deploy this capacity in a selective, intelligent, context-dependent manner, and understanding, even implicitly, when mirroring can reflect badly on you,” he added.

The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science.


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