Washington, February 13 : Mimicry has the potential to be a valuable tool in interpersonal persuasion, especially when it comes to selling a product, according to a new study.
Reported in the Journal of Consumer Research, the new study involved two experiments carried out by Duke University researchers.
One experiment suggested showed that watching someone else eat a certain food-either goldfish crackers or animal crackers in this case-causes the viewer to be inclined to eat the same thing.
The second experiment showed that participants who had their posture and speech mimicked by a salesperson rated the product higher and consumed more of it.
During the first experiment, participants were seated in front of a computer in a private lab room and asked to watch a video of a fellow participant describing a series of advertisements while occasionally taking goldfish or animal crackers from a bowl.
Bowls of both goldfish and animal crackers were present, but the subject in the video only took from one of the two bowls the entire time. Some participants also had two bowls of food in front of them, one filled with goldfish crackers and the other with animal crackers.
The researchers found that participants who watched a person eat goldfish crackers took from the goldfish bowl 71 per cent of the time, while those who watched a person eat animal crackers only took from the goldfish bowl 44 per cent of the time.
A pre-rating among participants suggested that goldfish crackers were preferred over animal crackers, on average.
"A person who views someone else's snacking behaviour will come to exhibit a similar snack selection pattern. This suggests that preferences may shift as a result of unintentionally mimicking another person's consumption behaviour," said the researchers.
In their second experiment, the researchers discovered that participants who had their posture, body angle, foot movements, and verbal patterns mimicked rated a new sports drink more positively and drank more of the sports drink than participants who were not mimicked.
A separate experiment showed that the positive ratings and the amount consumed was even higher when the mimicker expressly stated that he or she was invested in the success of the product.
"This suggests that mimicry has the potential to be a valuable tool in interpersonal persuasion, particularly in cases where the motivations and persuasive intent of the mimicker are transparent. So, even though consumers might try to resist a salesperson's pitch, being mimicked by that salesperson makes that pitch more impacting," the researchers write.