Experiences of mimicry in eating disorders.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND: People unknowingly mimic the behaviors of others, a process that results in feelings of affiliation. However, some individuals with eating disorders describe feeling "triggered" when mimicked. This study explores the effects of implicit non-verbal mimicry on individuals with a history of an eating disorder (ED-His) compared to healthy controls (HCs). METHOD: Women (N = 118, nED-His = 31; Mage = 21 years) participated in a laboratory task with a confederate trained to either discreetly mimic (Mimicry condition) or not mimic (No-Mimicry condition) the mannerisms of the participant. Participants rated the likability of the confederate and the smoothness of the interaction. RESULTS: Participants in the No-Mimicry condition rated the confederate as significantly more likable than in the Mimicry condition, and ED-His rated the confederate as more likable than HCs. ED-His in the Mimicry condition rated the interaction as less smooth than HCs, whereas this pattern was not found in the No-Mimicry condition. Among ED-His, longer disorder duration (≥ 3.87 years) was associated with less liking of a confederate who mimicked and more liking of a confederate who did not mimic. CONCLUSIONS: We discuss the implications of these findings for interpersonal therapeutic processes and group treatment settings for eating disorders. Our study on subtle, nonverbal mimicry revealed differences in social behavior for women with a history of an eating disorder compared to healthy women. For participants with an eating disorder history, a longer duration of illness was associated with a worse pattern of affiliation, reflected in lower liking of a mimicker. Further research on how diverging processes of affiliation may function to perpetuate the chronicity of eating disorders and implications for treatment is needed.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Erwin, SR; Liu, PJ; Datta, N; Nicholas, J; Rivera-Cancel, A; Leary, M; Chartrand, TL; Zucker, NL

Published Date

  • July 15, 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 10 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 103 -

PubMed ID

  • 35841035

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC9288029

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2050-2974

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1186/s40337-022-00607-9


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England