The power of movement: Evidence for context-independent movement imitation

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Recent studies have shown that individuals often imitate the behavior of others. In these studies, the observed and imitated behaviors were always identical. The present research goes one step further and disentangles the imitation of movements from their behavioral contexts. On the basis of theories that the perception of behavior refers to the same mental representations as the execution, we found that imitation is not confined to the same class of behaviors but rather to the same class of movements that may be involved in different behaviors. Four studies demonstrated that watching an athlete lifting a barbell leads to an increase in participants' drink intake when drinking involved a similar movement (lifting a cup) but not when drinking did not involve a lifting movement (drinking through a tube). The effects were stronger for individuals high in perspective taking (Study 1) and for situations in which the perspective was manipulated to be similar to the observed actor's (Study 2). These findings demonstrate the power of movements in imitation processes, suggesting that shared goal representation is not necessary for imitating others' movements.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)763-773
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 08.2013
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Goal independent imitation, Imitation, Motor mimicry, Stimulus-response compatibility
  • Business psychology