Monkey See, Monkey Do: Visual Feedback Is Necessary for Imitating Facial Expressions

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Research using new technology shows that our ability to imitate facial expressions depends on learning that occurs through visual feedback.


Studies of the chameleon effect confirm what salespeople, tricksters, and Lotharios have long known: Imitating another person’s postures and expressions is an important social lubricant.

But how do we learn to imitate with any accuracy when we can’t see our own facial expressions and we can’t feel the facial expressions of others?

Richard Cook of City University London, Alan Johnston of University College London, and Cecilia Heyes of the University of Oxford investigate possible mechanisms underlying our ability to imitate in two studies published inPsychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

In the first experiment, the researchers videotaped participants as they recited jokes and then asked them to imitate four randomly selected facial expressions from their videos. When they achieved what they perceived to be the target expression, the participants recorded the attempt with the click of a computer mouse.

Written By: Anna Mikulak
continue to source article at psychologicalscience.org

3 COMMENTS

  1. I learned everything from visual feedback; riding a bike, swimming, playing sports. I don’t take instruction well. I’ve noticed, through countless business meetings, if your client imitates your actions, you own them.

  2. Ah, the good old body language.

    In reply to #1 by aquilacane:

    I learned everything from visual feedback; riding a bike, swimming, playing sports. I don’t take instruction well. I’ve noticed, through countless business meetings, if your client imitates your actions, you own them.

  3. I’d like to see how mirror neurons might be co-opted into this. We mirror others expressions, but do we compensate for their first order errors and they for ours? If their smile is underachieving do we add a bit extra in return?

    aquilacane-

    As someone pitched to by others and on occasions pitching, I’m careful to control my copying responses especially when getting into the negotiating phase. CFO’s in my experience are particularly brilliant at having minimal body language.

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