Stanford University

Detecting digital chameleons

Bailenson, J.N., Yee, N., Patel, K., & Beall, A.C. (2008). Detecting digital chameleons. Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 66-87.

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Abstract

Conversations are characterized by an interactional synchrony between verbal and nonverbal behaviors [Kendon, A. (1970). Movement coordination in social interaction: some examples described. Acta Psychologica, 32(2), 101-125]. A subset of these contingent conversational behaviors is direct mimicry. During face to face interaction, people who mimic the verbal [Giles, H., Coupland, J., & Coupland, N. (1991). Accommodation theory: Communication, context, and consequence. In Giles, H., Coupland, J., & Coupland, N. Contexts of accommodation. Developments in applied sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press] and nonverbal behaviors [Chartrand, T. L., & Bargh, J. A. (1999). The chameleon effect: the perception-behavior link and social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 893-910] gain social advantage. Most research examining mimicry behavior in interaction examines 'implicit mimicry' in which the mimicked individual is unaware of the behavior of the mimicker. In this paper, we examined how effective people were at explicitly detecting mimicking computer agents and the consequences of mimic detection in terms of social influence and interactional synchrony. In Experiment 1, participant pairs engaged in a ''one-degree of freedom'' Turing Test. When the computer agent mimicked them, users were significantly worse than chance at identifying the other human. In Experiment 2, participants were more likely to detect mimicry in an agent that mirror-mimicked their head movements (three degrees of freedom) than agents that either congruently mimicked their behaviors or mimicked those movements on another rotational axis. We discuss implications for theories of interactivity.

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