Group membership does not modulate goal- versus movement-based imitation

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It is often put forward that in-group members are imitated more strongly than out-group members. However, the validity of this claim has been questioned as recent investigations were not able to find differences for the imitation of in- versus out-group members. A central characteristic of these failed replications is their mere focus on movement-based imitation, thereby neglecting to take into consideration the superior goal of the movements. By using a computerised version of the pen-and-cups task, we disentangled movement- from goal-based imitation to shed further light onto the link between group membership and imitation. As previous research demonstrated that out-group members (as compared with in-group members) are represented psychologically distant and as psychological distance shifts the degree to which participants engage in goal- versus movement-based imitation, we predicted that in-group members (as compared with out-group members) shift the degree to which individuals imitate movements versus goals. The results did not confirm our predictions, as group membership does not modulate the degree of movement- versus goal-based imitation. Theoretical implications and the question whether imitative behaviour is socially modulated are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)827-837
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 04.2023

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