Mimicry refers to the (often subconscious and automatic) imitation of other people’s behavior. You yawn when I yawn. You smile when I smile. You shake your foot when I shake my foot. We mimic because mimicry has clear benefits for us and it helps us reach our goals. For example, when I mimic you smiling at me during a conversation, you’ll like me more. We will also be more likely to bond together, and our conversation will be much more fluent.
There are two paths via which mimicry can be used to persuade us. First, we mimic the consuming behavior of others (we eat more if we see others eating lots). Second, when our mannerisms are mimicked (such as smiling, shaking foot, fondling hair, etc.) we like the other more, making us more vulnerable to persuasion.
Scientific research example:
Imagine you are dining in a nice restaurant. The waitress is very friendly and the food is nice. When it is time to pay and tip the waitress, you tip her generously. Why not? She was nice and friendly and attentive throughout the meal. Your colleague, who coincidentally dines in the same restaurant and has been served by the same waitress, was also satisfied with the food and service. However, he gives a significantly lower tip. What happened here?
Well, van Baaren et. al. instructed your waitress to verbally repeat your order precisely (and not that of your colleague). This verbal mimicry unconsciously worked in her favor: you gave her a bigger tip.
Another proof of the power of mimicry is the fact that recently a chatbot passed the “Turing test” (which means that the chatbot made 30% of its users think they were interacting with a human being). How did ‘he’ do that? By mimicking the user’s speech and behavior!
Finally, some interesting insights arise from the finding that our brain seems to be wired for mimicry: we have special mirror neurons which help us recognize, internalize and act upon other people’s behaviors.
Online Persuasion tips:
Mimic the behavior of your customer: