The Wall Street Journal:
It is a common experience: You’re deep in conversation with someone and suddenly realize you’re both holding the same pose, leaning forward and propping an elbow on the table. Or you notice you’re suddenly starting to pick up the other person’s Southern accent or fast, loud speech.
Mirroring a conversation partner’s gestures, expressions, posture, vocal pitch or tone can reflect rapport or a desire to please, research shows. It is seen most often between romantic partners, but it happens at work, too, in networking sessions, meetings and conversations with colleagues.
Deliberately trying to mirror another person’s behavior without being truly engaged can backfire, however. Others are likely to notice and see it as an attempt at manipulation. “We tend to like people who imitate us—as long as we don’t notice that they’re doing it,” says Chris Frith, an emeritus professor of neuropsychology at University College London and co-author with Dr. Hasson of the 2016 study.
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