New Paper: Is It What You Do, Or When You Do It?

A new paper has just been published in the journal ‘Cognitive Science’ by Dr Caroline Catmur (co-authored with Professor Cecilia Heyes from the University of Oxford), entitled: ‘Is It What You Do, or When You Do It? The Roles of Contingency and Similarity in Pro-Social Effects of Imitation’.

A summary of the paper was kindly provided for this blog by Dr Catmur:

People copy each other automatically, often without realising it. This mimicry has important outcomes: people who are mimicked by others tend to be more generous, feel closer to others, and generally act in a more positive way. But what is more important: copying the exact movement, or acting “in synch” with the other person? In this computerised experiment we showed that people who experienced strong contingency between their own and others’ actions enjoyed the experiment more, reported feeling closer to other people, and were more helpful after the experiment – regardless of whether the other person’s actions matched theirs or not. So when it comes to improving interactions with others, what you do may be less important than when you do it.

A figure of the stimuli used in the study can be seen above.

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