Social Bond Theory – Imitate Others and They Like You More |

In this new look at Social Interaction Psychology and Social Bond Theory, copying the motions, expression and mannerisms of people you meet appears to have a whole lot to do with promoting social bonding.New research appearing in the August 14, 2009 issue of Science suggests that the way to get others to like you is to mimic their behavior.Imitation appears to unconsciously break down barriers that encourage those who don’t know each other to become friends – the foundation of social groups according to the study authors.The unique set of experiments involved observing the behavior of Capuchin monkeys playing with wiffle balls.This breed of monkeys was used because they’re a highly social species that forms close social bonds. The monkeys did one of three things when they were given the balls, either probed it with their fingers, pounded it on a surface or put it in their mouths.Paired with two researchers (both also with wiffle balls) each monkey played with the ball – one researcher did the exact same motions with his ball as the monkey, the other researcher did something completely different.After the test, the monkeys consistently chose to spend time with the researcher who had imitated them than with the one who had done a different motion.Even when it came to doing a simple task, taking a small trinket from the investigator’s hand and then returning it for a food reward, the subject monkeys continued to prefer the researcher who’d imitated them – consistently choosing them to execute the task over the researcher who hadn’t mimicked them.This was interpreted by the research team to be a sign that the monkeys felt a sense of affiliation toward the imitator.This work is the joint effort of a team of scientists out of the National Institute of Health (NIH) and two Italian research institutions.The study authors point out that humans are known to imitate the postures, mannerisms and gestures of those they come in contact with, though the behavior is believed to be largely unconscious on both sides.Neither side realizing that the mimicking is taking place, and finding themselves feeling affection (or empathy) for those who mimic their behavior.Earlier research has shown that people are more likely to help their imitators, and under the right circumstances leave them a more generous tip.This is of course interesting social interaction psychology, and seeing that primates are pre-disposed to bond with those who imitate them, may put proof to the saying that imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.