Beyond the Perception-Behavior Link: The Ubiquitous Utility and Motivational Moderators of Nonconscious Mimicry
Perception and behavior are inextricably intertwined such that people automatically behave as they perceive. This "perception-behavior link" refers to the unintentional, nonconscious effects of social perception on social behavior. The perception of observables may activate specific behavioral representations, trait constructs, or stereotypes. Mimicry is a manifestation of the perception-behavior link at its most fundamental level. It is no more than copying another's observables and requires only the ability to perceive the behavior in the other person and the ability to form the behavior oneself. There is now considerable empirical evidence that people mimic a variety of observables, including speech, facial expressions, physical mannerisms, moods,and emotions. This chapter focuses on automatic imitation, which appears to be a result of the perception-behavior link. After reviewing the evidence for nonconscious mimicry, it explores the origins and utility of behavioral mimicry and argues that it serves a "social survival" function today. This chapter concludes that nonconscious mimicry may be an unidentified strategy in the repertoire of behaviors that help people get along with others.