Social Mimicry Enhances Mu-Suppression During Action Observation Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • During social interactions, there is a tendency for people to mimic the gestures and mannerisms of others, which increases liking and rapport. Psychologists have extensively studied the antecedents and consequences of mimicry at the social level, but the neural basis of this behavior remains unclear. Many researchers have speculated that mimicry is related to activity in the human mirror system (HMS), a network of parietofrontal regions that are involved in both action execution and observation. However, activity of the HMS during reciprocal social interactions involving mimicry has not been demonstrated. Here, we took an electroencephalographic (EEG) index of mirror activity-mu-suppression during action observation-in a pretest/post-test design with 1 of 3 intervening treatments: 1) social interaction in which the participant was mimicked, 2) social interaction without mimicry, or 3) an innocuous computer task, not involving another human agent. The change in mu-suppression from pre- to post-test varied as a function of the intervening treatment, with participants who had been mimicked showing an increase in mu-suppression during the post-treatment action observation session. We propose that this specific modulation of HMS activity as a function of mimicry constitutes the first direct evidence for mirror system involvement in real social mimicry.

publication date

  • August 2015