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 line—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.