Digital Chameleons:<br> Automatic assimilation of nonverbal gestures in immersive virtual environments

Bailenson, J.N. & Yee, N. (2005). Digital Chameleons: Automatic assimilation of nonverbal gestures in immersive virtual environments. Psychological Science, 16, 814-819.


Previous research demonstrated social influence resulting from mimicry (the chameleon effect); a confederate who mimicked participants was more highly regarded than a confederate who did not, despite the fact that participants did not explicitly notice the mimicry. In the current study, participants interacted with an embodied artificial intelligence agent in immersive virtual reality. The agent either mimicked a participant’s head movements at a 4-s delay or utilized prerecorded movements of another participant as it verbally presented an argument. Mimicking agents were more persuasive and received more positive trait ratings than nonmimickers, despite participants’ inability to explicitly detect the mimicry. These data are uniquely powerful because they demonstrate the ability to use automatic, indiscriminate mimicking (i.e., a computer algorithm blindly applied to all movements) to gain social influence. Furthermore, this is the first study to demonstrate social influence effects with a nonhuman, nonverbal mimicker.