What is chameleon effect?

    Have you ever heard about the psychological CHAMELEON effect? It’s a really interesting social psychological phenomenon for which many of us aren’t even aware.

chameleon effect


    Have you ever noticed that sometimes you cross your legs when your friend with whom you are sitting crosses their legs? Or you have you ever noticed that you sometimes lean forward when someone you are talking with leans forward? According to Psychology Today, we mimic the people around us all the time without even realizing it.

imitation baby and cat

The Chameleon Effect is a strange phenomenon in which we tend to unconsciously mimic the speech pattern, tone of voice, facial expressions and mood of someone we have spent a lot of time with.

    In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Chartrand and Bargh asked 72 college students to sit down individually with an experimenter and discuss a set of photographs. With half the subjects, experimenters maintained a neutral, relaxed seated position. But they mimicked the posture, movements and mannerisms of the other subjects, crossing their legs or twirling their hair when subjects did. At the study’s end, students whose moves had been imitated rated their experimenters as more likable, and reported having had smoother interactions with them. So, we can conclude that people build rapport with mimicry.

women talking

   Outside the laboratory setting, the chameleon effect happens naturally and frequently. If you start to analyze the behavior of the people around you, you will notice that they who get along well behave almost the same way. They mimic each other’s body posture, hand gestures or speaking accents when they are in rapport.

The empathic individuals, those who took the perspective of others, were also found to mirror another person’s action more often. Verbal mirroring is a simple and effective way of establishing a connection with someone. Listen to what your conversation partner is telling you, and mirror back the words they use. If someone uses the words “happy” “frustrated” “embarrassed” “worried” in their sentences, use those exact words when you replying. Mirroring a person’s language shows that you understand your conversation partner, and that you are an empathetic listener. Almost every good counselor is doing this kind of mirroring with their clients during the therapy sessions.

So, if you never noticed this psychological effect before, go and observe. When you will be with your friends or in another group of people try to analyze that people’s behavior. Maybe you will be surprised by what you will see.

Be free to share your experiences with me in the comments below.


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