Automatic imitation does not predict levels of prosocial behaviour in a modified dictator game
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Automatic imitation refers to the automatic tendency to imitate observed actions. Previous research on automatic imitation has linked it to a wide variety of social cognitive processes and functions, although the evidence is mixed and suggestive. However, no study to date has looked at the downstream behavioural effects of automatic imitation. The current research addresses this gap in the literature by exploring the possible relationship between trait-levels of automatic imitation, as measured by the automatic imitation task (AIT), and explicit prosocial behaviours, as measured by a modified dictator game (DG). Contrary to our expectations, AIT effects did not correlate with DG scores. This conclusion is supported by both equivalence tests and Bayesian analysis. However, we discuss a number of alternative explanations for our results, and caution against strong interpretations from a single study. We further discuss the implications of this finding in relation to the widespread notion that automatic imitation, and self-other control more generally, underlie social cognitive functions.
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