18 February 2008

You remind me of... well... ME!

The social scientist in me finds the concept of social mimicry fascinating. This article in the New York Times talks about the use of mimicry to persuade another to, say, try a new product. This is something sales people seem to instinctively know - and it makes me wonder how many times I have been so easily "played".

Psychologists have been studying the art of persuasion for nearly a century, analyzing activities like political propaganda, television campaigns and door-to-door sales. Many factors influence people’s susceptibility to an appeal, studies suggest, including their perception of how exclusive an opportunity is and whether their neighbors are buying it.

Most people are also strongly sensitive to rapport, to charm, to the social music in the person making the pitch. In recent years, researchers have begun to decode the unspoken, subtle elements that come into play when people click.

They have found that immediate social bonding between strangers is highly dependent on mimicry, a synchronized and usually unconscious give and take of words and gestures that creates a current of good will between two people.

By understanding exactly how this process works, researchers say, people can better catch themselves when falling for an artful pitch, and even sharpen their own social skills in ways they may not have tried before.

I think I will have to be more alert to this practice in the future - but I would be lying if I said I wouldn't be trying it out the next time I am trying to convince someone to see something from my point of view... What about you??

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