Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Science
Dr. Nancy L Kocovski
Dr. Sukhvinder S Obhi
This dissertation examines behavioural mimicry – defined as the unintentional alteration of one’s behaviour to match that of an interaction partner – within individuals with high social anxiety. Reduced mimicry behaviour among individuals with high social anxiety has been demonstrated in past research using a virtual environment and interaction partner (Vrijsen, Lange, Becker, & Rinck, 2010; Vrijsen, Lange, Dotsch, Wigboldus, & Rinck, 2010). The following studies further examined the relationship between high social anxiety and mimicry behaviour in several contexts. In Study 1 (N = 81), the Automatic Imitation Task (AIT) was used to examine motor resonance, the tendency for corresponding motor activity to occur during observation of another individual acting. It was hypothesized that individuals with high social anxiety would show reduced motor resonance compared to those with low social anxiety; however, individuals with high and low social anxiety did not significantly differ on levels of motor resonance. In Study 2 (N = 84), an experimental environment that simulated a natural human social interaction was used to examine the relationship between mimicry and social anxiety. The simulated interaction involved a confederate (fake participant) who made a series of target movements during the interaction. Individuals with high social anxiety mimicked the confederate less (made fewer target movements) than those with low social anxiety; however, the reduced mimicry finding only occurred during the period in which the participants were talking, but not while they were listening. In addition, during the period in which participants were talking, increased self-focused attention was associated with reduced behavioural mimicry. Study 3 (N = 95) manipulated self-focused attention in participants with high social anxiety before they engaged in the mimicry task outlined in Study 2. Individuals with high social anxiety who were manipulated to have increased self-focused attention did not show reduced mimicry behaviour compared to individuals manipulated to have other-focused attention. However, among participants in the self-focused attention condition, increased self-focused attention was associated with reduced mimicry behaviour during the portion of the experiment when participants were listening, but not while they were talking. Collectively, these three studies provided partial evidence to support the notion of reduced mimicry among individuals with high social anxiety. Future research can further evaluate the contexts in which those with high levels of social anxiety may mimic less, as well as factors that may play a role (e.g., self-focused attention).
Abbott, Kayleigh, "Do socially anxious individuals lack behavioural mimicry? Examining the relationships among social anxiety, self-focused attention and mimicry" (2018). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 2005.