Group membership does not modulate automatic imitation

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Individuals have the automatic tendency to imitate each other. A key prediction of different theories explaining automatic imitation is that individuals imitate in-group members more strongly than out-group members. However, the empirical basis for this prediction is rather inconclusive. Only a few experiments have investigated the influence of group membership using classic automatic imitation paradigms and these experiments led to mixed results. To put the group membership prediction to a critical test, we carried out six high-powered experiments (total N = 1538) in which we assessed imitation with the imitation-inhibition task and manipulated group membership in different ways. Evidence across all experiments indicates that group membership does not modulate automatic imitation. Moreover, we do not find support for the idea that feelings of affiliation or perceived similarity moderate the effect of group membership on automatic imitation. These results have important implications for theories explaining automatic imitation and contribute to the current discussion of whether automatic imitation can be socially modulated.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)780-791
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 01.04.2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. This work was supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG; Grant Number: 246329797).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).