Social group membership does not modulate automatic imitation in a contrastive multi-agent paradigm

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A key prediction of motivational theories of automatic imitation is that people imitate in-group over out-group members. However, research on this topic has provided mixed results. Here, we investigate the possibility that social group modulations emerge only when people can directly compare in- and out-group. To this end, we conducted three experiments in which we measured automatic imitation of two simultaneously shown hands: one in-group and one out-group hand. Our general hypothesis was that the in-group hand would be imitated more than the out-group hand. However, even though both explicit and implicit manipulation checks showed that we succeeded in manipulating participants’ feelings of group membership, we did not find support for the predicted influence of group membership on automatic imitation. In contrast to motivational theories, this suggests that group membership does not influence who we do or do not imitate, not even in a contrastive multi-agent paradigm.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)746-759
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 04.2021
Externally publishedYes

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