Mirror, Mirror

August 1, 2009

Tanya Chartrand is curious why we love it when others present us with reflections of ourselves. Chartrand, a professor of marketing and psychology at the Fuqua School of Business, studies non-conscious mimicry and human behavior, namely how they relate to sales.

She recently conducted a series of experiments during which subjects were unknowingly mimicked by a researcher, who copied gestures, mannerisms, and postures. The findings indicate that people who are being subtly mimicked are more likely to buy a product and even more willing to engage in other "pro-social" (as opposed to antisocial) behavior, like picking up a cup of spilled pencils. But it's a fine lineā€”if the subject catches on, the game is over.

Some of Chartrand's other studies suggest that if a salesperson seems to be heavily invested in a particular product, he or she is more likely to make the sale. "If you want to get along with someone, you will unconsciously mimic them," Chartrand says.

It's something that a good salesperson does without needing to think about it. But for those without that natural inclination, the answer might be as simple as following closely, and reflecting what you see.

Bill Bamberger