Psychological Research

, Volume 82, Issue 4, pp 819–831 | Cite as

Contingency and contiguity of imitative behaviour affect social affiliation

  • David Dignath
  • Paul Lotze-Hermes
  • Harry Farmer
  • Roland Pfister
Original Article


Actions of others automatically prime similar responses in an agent’s behavioural repertoire. As a consequence, perceived or anticipated imitation facilitates own action control and, at the same time, imitation boosts social affiliation and rapport with others. It has previously been suggested that basic mechanisms of associative learning can account for behavioural effects of imitation, whereas a possible role of associative learning for affiliative processes is poorly understood at present. Therefore, this study examined whether contingency and contiguity, the principles of associative learning, affect also the social effects of imitation. Two experiments yielded evidence in favour of this hypothesis by showing more social affiliation in conditions with high contingency (as compared to low contingency) and in conditions of high contiguity (compared to low contiguity).



We would like to thank Gregory Born for creating the video clip set. The work of RP was supported by a grant from the German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; DFG; grant number PF 853/2 − 1).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All author declare that no conflict of interest exists.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Dignath
    • 1
  • Paul Lotze-Hermes
    • 2
  • Harry Farmer
    • 3
  • Roland Pfister
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.University of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  3. 3.University College LondonLondonUK

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