How do I copy someone's character

Chameleon effect: the power of mirror technology

Some people are just lucky: they are their counterpart immediately likeable. Everyone else either had bad luck, bad breath - or they have to help their luck with the so-called Mirror technology, also known as Chameleon effect. You may have noticed its effect quite often in everyday life: with couples in love in a restaurant, with colleagues who are friends in the canteen, with new acquaintances at a trade fair ...

Mirror technology: how the chameleon effect works

With many Popular figures the chameleon effect works automatically: words and body language are unconsciously synchronized. She runs her hand through her hair, shortly afterwards he wipes a strand from his forehead. He crosses his legs, and a little later she does the same. He often uses the word "fascinating", now she also incorporates it into her sentences ...

Especially Micro gestures such as smiling, yawning, scratching your nose, taking a sip, are extremely contagious. Tanya Chartrand and John Bargh, for example, were able to prove this as early as 1999.

  • Their test subjects, who met for the first time, mimicked Touches on the face already up to 20 percent,
  • the Crossed legs even 50 percent - but usually only if two people like and understand each other, as the Dutch psychologist Rick van Baaren from the University of Nijmegen has repeatedly found in his research on unconsciously imitating the other person.

Behind it is our human Need for harmony and symmetryAs can be seen, for example, from the fact that people who feel excluded imitate group members all the more intensely. At the same time, that takes over Behavioral mimicry an important interpersonal task: it forms a kind of social glue.

Psychology distinguishes between three behaviors:

  1. Matching

    The partner's body language is analyzed and initially only reflected up to a maximum of 50 percent by your own.

  2. Pacing

    Body language, gestures, facial expressions, language are increasingly synchronized.

  3. rapport

    Almost complete symmetry - both partners refer to each other through their behavior every time.

Especially with the Pacen (Denglisch, from the English verb "to pace") you can adapt to your counterpart in a respectful way - in various areas of communication:

  • Posture, movement, gestures, facial expressions, ...
  • Voice height, speaking volume, speaking speed, sentence melody, ...
  • Breathing rate, breathing depth, coughing, clearing your throat, yawning, ...
  • Inflection, favorite words, linguistic peculiarities, technical terms, ...
  • Clothing style, gadgets, symbols of belonging, ...
  • Happiness, thoughtfulness, stiffness, ...

And these are just a few examples. Some experts eat or drink in the same rhythm, adopt the values ​​and beliefs of the other person for the duration of the conversation and even pace their blink.

The synchronous behavior also forms one mirror from which you can read how harmonious a relationship or conversation actually is.

Those who imitate others understand them better

When two people like and understand each other, then they not only unconsciously begin to imitate the other. Linguists working with Patti Adank from the University of Manchester have reversed the situation

Chameleon effect: how to use mirror technology

The initially involuntary chameleon effect can be just as well use them specificallyin order to reduce the distance to your counterpart, his reservations or aggression - of course without him feeling manipulated.

Imagine you have an appointment with a customer, employee or boss. And he's just, well, not well-disposed towards you, keeps his distance and crosses his arms. A clear one Signal of inner tension and dissonance.

Just don't try to get on him, to sneak in, possibly with an exaggerated way friendliness. That doesn't help.

Instead, keep your distance and carefully imitate his Body language to. Be careful! After all, you don't want to imitate Harpo Marx.

Also cross your arms and smile You with it. Stay calm and friendly in tone. If he crosses his legs, they do it after a while.

Over time, your counterpart becomes unconscious, To gain confidence in you. Through your body language you suggest symmetry, sympathy and harmony to him.

In time you can dare To take action on your part: Slowly loosen your posture, open your arms and lean over towards him. Do his movements follow yours? Then you cracked it.

Otherwise the bond between them is not yet tear-proof. Then you shouldn't strain it any further and give it a while longer Movement initiative left.

The same also works with facial expressions and language.

In the course of the conversation, you can also find out about ...

  • Speaking speed
  • volume
  • Way of speaking
  • Stresses
  • Choice of words

... adapt to your counterpart. Just please never ape! That would annoy the imitated immediately.

Even more: Experts warn against mirroring people who are still at the time hostile are set towards each other. The imitation could then intensify the rejection, something that the psychologist Katja Likowski researched at the University of Würzburg.

So that mimicry If it is successful, it must be extremely subtle and you should remain as authentic as possible. So it is better to practice the chameleon technique with friends and acquaintances before cracking your boss.

Additional bonus: Small gestures maintain friendship.

Dangers and limits of mirror technology

When psychologists Piotr Winkielman and Liam Kavanagh, along with Christopher Suhler and Patricia Churchland of the University of California at San Diego, studied the effect of someone copying someone else's body language, they found that it did Damage reputation can. Or as Winkielman puts it: "The success of imitation depends heavily on which person we imitate, at what point in time and for what reasons."

To put it this way, it is still a platitude that applies to just about everything. The circumstances of the accompanying experiments, however, are not. So the researchers left their subjects Application videos look at. Sometimes the HR manager was friendly, sometimes unfriendly. The interviewed candidates, however, reflected his body language by scratching their necks or crossing their legs ...

Effect: those applicants who are the unfriendly recruiter imitated were recognized by the HR staff as less competent classified. Or in other words: If you find an unsympathetic person (who may not even be aware of this) reflect, you will not necessarily become more sympathetic to him - even if you fraternize yourself in terms of body language.

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[Photo credit: Arif Supriyadi by]