People tend to mirror mannerisms of those they like

In popular culture, mirroring is frequently used as a strategy, for flirting or having a successful date, for closing a sale or facing a job interview.

But new research suggests that sometimes the smarter thing to do is to refrain from mirroring, the journal Psychological Science reports.

Piotr Winkielman and Liam Kavanagh, psychologists at the University of California, San Diego, noted that in real-life situations others observe mirroring between two people, according to a California statement.

"Mimicry is a crucial part of social intelligence," said Winkielman, professor of psychology. "But it is not enough to simply know how to mimic."

"It's also important to know when and what not to. The success of mirroring depends on mirroring the right people at the right time for the right reasons. Sometimes the socially intelligent thing to do is not to imitate."

Study participants were asked to watch several staged and videotaped interviews, which had both cordial and unfriendly interviewers. Interviewees who mimicked the unfriendly interlocutor were judged to be less competent than those who didn't.

In a second experiment, participants were exposed to the same videos but with the interviewer obscured. In other words, they couldn't see any evidence of mimicry, and the results supported the researchers' hypothesis.

It is not merely interacting with negatively perceived people that has a social cost; you pay a price for aligning with them through body language.

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