July 2013
Volume 13, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   July 2013
Unconscious mimicry limits success in a competitive visual reaching task
Author Affiliations
  • Ken Nakayama
    Department of Psychology, Harvard University
  • Maryam Vaziri Pashkam
    Department of Psychology, Harvard University
  • Marnix Naber
    Department of Psychology, Harvard University\nDepartment of Psychology, University of Leiden
Journal of Vision July 2013, Vol.13, 774. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.774
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      Ken Nakayama, Maryam Vaziri Pashkam, Marnix Naber; Unconscious mimicry limits success in a competitive visual reaching task. Journal of Vision 2013;13(9):774. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/13.9.774.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Individual skills such as endurance and speed determine success in competitive game-play and sports. It is, however, less obvious whether players can mutually modulate each other’s skills in such circumstances. Here we demonstrate that players are highly susceptible to implicitly mimic their opponent’s behavior. In our experiments, pairs of players stood on opposite sides of a touchscreen table on which many targets were shown for short durations. Players could earn money by reaching these targets before their opponent. They used a small stick to hit targets and visual feedback was given to indicate the winner. A magnetic tracking sensor was attached to the stick such that hit reaction times and three dimensional movements could be measured at a rate of 120Hz. Results showed that, despite the strongly competitive nature of the game, opponents mirrored each other’s movements and reaction times. In a second experiment, a new group of players played against a confederate. The confederate was instructed to modulate his performance by playing either slow or fast in consecutive blocks. Data showed that players mimicked the confederates performance and movements across blocks while they were unaware of this behavior. Mimicry was thus maladaptive and decreased financial reward for the players in cases where the confederate performed worse. In sum, it seems that people cannot suppress the implicit tendency to mimic the movements and reaction times of others, even under competitive circumstances. Mimicry is seemingly so strong and automatic that it can determine success in competitive game-play.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2013


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