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Contingency and contiguity of imitative behaviour affect social affiliation

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Abstract

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).

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Notes

  1. Due to an error when naming and saving the video files, the video of one of the 27 models showed only vertical movements in all conditions. Data from this block was excluded from the analysis.

  2. Please note, that the design of this study was not intended to test for automatic imitation effects in performance data.

  3. Two raters coded the answers of the participants. Participants were identified as being aware of the experimental manipulation when they affirmed at least one of two questions (question 1: “Did the movement of the person in the video influence your judgement of the other person?”; question 2: Did the frequency of similar or dissimilar movements have an influence on your judgement about the other person?”).

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Acknowledgements

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).

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Correspondence to David Dignath.

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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.

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Data and analysis scripts for this article can be retrieved from the Open Science Framework: https://osf.io/ht4p7/?view_only=5ad13fc30df14c1cb7c9a2a298a276f2.

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Dignath, D., Lotze-Hermes, P., Farmer, H. et al. Contingency and contiguity of imitative behaviour affect social affiliation. Psychological Research 82, 819–831 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0854-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0854-x

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