Something I enjoyed as a teenager was the sensation of hormones building up and the paradoxical urge to rebel and do the opposite of everything that was expected of me, yet conform at the same time. The solutions many teenagers used were rebelling against their parents so they could become individuals … who ended up copying each other and conforming to what was expected as being “cool” and what wasn’t. This is what ‘Mirroring’ is: it is unconsciously mimicking the actions of people we feel a connection with (from clothes to slang used and in this case Body Language) as a form of bonding and acceptance.
Yawning is an excellent example of body language mirroring. Many of you are aware that yawning is contagious, where the mere sight of seeing someone open their mouth can cause you to yawn as well. This was initially thought to be a form of oxygenating the body, but it has also been proven to be a hardwired primitive mirroring technique. Try yawning in a crowded place while someone is watching you to test for yourself.
People who are sharing the same emotions or thoughts will start building a rapport with body language and expressions. This body language mirroring behavior is believed to start early on in our lives, such as when we are in the womb, and our heartbeats synchronize with our mother’s speed. Have you ever noticed that when someone has something on their face, coming out of their nose or teeth the person talking to them will start cleaning their own face, touching their nose or passing their tongue through their teeth? How about a couple who go out to eat and at the restaurant, and one of them asks the other “What are you going to have?“, only to end up ordering the exact same dish and unconsciously “connecting” through food. This is basically what body language mirroring is all about. Mirroring ends up making the other person unconsciously feel comfortable around you without being able to explain why, when in fact what is happening is that our subconscious detects these small copying gestures and thinks “Mmm, this person must think and feel exactly like me, and I feel comfortable around them because we are both acting the same way and doing the same thing, so it doesn’t make me stand out and feel different like I do with other people“. This is why autistic sufferers are so socially isolated – because their brains cannot detect and mimic their peer’s gestures.
One of the simplest psychological experiments you can do to prove this is by taking a picture of yourself with your camera and then taking another picture of yourself in the mirror, and seeing which one you like better. Odd’s are you will find the mirror reflection picture more appealing and “natural” because it is the way you are used to seeing others every day.
Every now and again you will come across an elderly couple that look scarily alike: their body language, expressions, and even clothing will resemble each other. When two people think alike and get along, after a certain amount of time living together they will start looking very similar because they are constantly mimicking the other person’s body language and expressions which creates muscle definitions in those facial areas.
This also applies to pets. One thing I’ve learned is you can tell a lot about people by the pets they choose to adopt. People who like cats, for example, tend to either love “cuteness”, have very relaxed personalities or on the contrary, they are emotionally unbalanced and have very complex inner personalities (hence the frightening amount of crazy people with dozens of cats). Cats for these people are found attractive by such neurotic types of people because they envy their graceful and calm attitudes. Dog lovers, on the other hand, tend to be more outdoorsy people, value loyalty, and discipline. I sometimes like asking people what type of dog they’d get because it reflects their own attitudes and how they feel inside. When choosing a pet we commonly pick one that resembles us physically or that represents our attitude.
Next time you go to a social gathering, take a brief glimpse and the social interactions between others. You will notice that two or more people who are in a conversation that are in agreement will have the exact same posture and body language as those they are akin to. Also, watch out for which person is the one to change their posture first and watch the other/s imitate them once more. The initiator is usually the dominant person in the group or the one with the highest status.