Imitation and interindividual differences: Belief in free will is not related to automatic imitation

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It is well known that individuals have the tendency to automatically imitate each other and that such imitative behavior is fostered by perceiving intentions in others' actions. That is, past research has shown that perceiving an action as internally driven enhances the shared representation of observed and executed actions increasing automatic imitation. An interpersonal factor that increases the perception that a behavior is internally driven is belief in free will. Consequently, we hypothesized that the more individuals believe in free will, the more they automatically imitate others. To test this prediction, we conducted two high-powered (total N = 642) and preregistered studies in which we assessed automatic imitation with the imitation-inhibition task. Contrary to our predictions, belief in free will did not correlate with automatic imitation. This finding contributes to current findings challenging the assumption that automatic imitation is modulated by interindividual differences. Further theoretical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103374
JournalActa Psychologica
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 01.09.2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG; grant number GE 3040/2-1 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

    Research areas

  • Automatic imitation, Free will belief, Intention, Interindividual differences, Top-down modulation
  • Business psychology