When we meet a new person we need to assess quickly if he or she is positive or negative towards us, the way other animals do for survival reasons.This is general done by seeing other person’s body (gesture) – the same way we do in what is known as ‘mirroring’. Bonding with each other happens, when we mirror each other’s body language – a indication of accepted and creating rapport. I am sure many of us have noticed a common mirroring is yawning – one person starts and it sets everyone off. Robert Provine found that yawning is so contagious you don’t even need to see another person yawn – the sight of a wide-open mouth is enough to do it. It was once thought that the purpose of yawning was to oxygenate the body but we now know that it’s a form of mirroring that serves to create rapport with others and to avoid aggression — just as it also does for monkeys and chimps.
At times we see that non-verbal mirroring at party – for example two people show up at a party or meeting wearing the same outfit, they could become lifelong friends. This is why people at a rock concert will all jump to their feet and applaud simultaneously or give a ‘Mexican Wave’ together. The syn-chronicity of the crowd promotes a secure feeling in the participants. Similarly, people in an angry mob will mirror aggressive attitudes and this explains why many usually calm people can lose their cool in this situation.
The urge to mirror is also the basis on which a queue works. In a queue, people willingly co-operate with people they have never met and will never see again, obeying an unwritten set of behavioural rules while waiting for a bus, at an art gallery, in a bank or side by side in war. Professor Joseph Heinrich from the University of Michigan found that the urges to mirror others are hardwired into the brain because co-operation leads to more food, better health and Learning to mirror our parents begins early: Prince Philip and a young Prince Charles in perfect step
economic growth for communities. It also offers an explanation as to why societies that are highly disciplined in mirroring, such as the British, Germans and ancient Romans successfully dominated the world for many years.
Mirroring makes others feel ‘at ease’. It’s such a powerful rapport-building tool that slow-motion video research reveals that it even extends to simultaneous blinking, nostril-flaring, eyebrow-raising and even pupil dilation, which is remarkable as these micro-gestures cannot be consciously imitated.