The Chameleon Effect: The Perception-Behavior Link And Social Interaction

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It was a brutally cold November morning, and my roommate and I talked in hushed voices as we hid under our covers in dread. Her voice was warm and robust, tinged with a slight Nigerian influence. Our tones were calm and slow, still waking from our short sleep. Not five minutes in, however, this rare moment of peace was sharply shattered by a banging at the door. As the stomps of a cranky Tyler entered the room, we knew our avoidance was over. Immediately, Tyler began to yell at my roommate, Oluwafolabomi, in a deep, loud voice, thick in its Liberian influence. The ensuing debate between the girls, over topics I could barely discern, bore no resemblance to the previous conversation. Oluwafolabomi’s voice was now deep, vivid, and utterly …show more content…

Tanya Chartrand and John Bargh are two notable researchers whom also have extensively contributed to the topic of the chameleon effect, and eloquently explain its mechanism. In their studies, they primarily focus on the motor mimicry that typically accompanies tonal mimicry. However, the subconscious intent and the resulting effects are the same. In their study “The Chameleon Effect: The Perception-Behavior Link and Social Interaction”, they explain, “the perception of the similar behavior on the part of the other creates shared feelings of empathy and rapport”. As a result, they continue, the chameleon effect “exists…as a kind of “social glue” that produces empathetic understanding and even greater liking between people, without their having to intend or try to have this happen”. The chameleon effect communicates empathy and understanding through its vocal mimicry. In doing so, the chameleon effect subconsciously bonds individuals together in their …show more content…

Questioning the fundaments of community building is the start of the solution. Of these building blocks, perhaps the most significant and unrecognized is the chameleon effect. The chameleon effect subconsciously communicates community, and subconsciously marks its outsiders. It is therefore imperative that people begin to become aware of their use of this effect. Admittedly, it is more than mildly ironic that to urge awareness of a subconscious action. But implicit biases, or attitudes or stereotypes that affect the way we perceive and interact with others, are created in the subconscious (“Understanding implicit bias”). Likewise, implicit biases must be combatted by thorough examination of the subconscious. The chameleon effect and the implicit biases that may guide it must be thoroughly examined in order to gain an awareness of our actions. It is recognition of why such actions occur that we can begin to truly control them. Communities are important. They foster feelings of support, preserve culture, and validate the worth of the shared characteristic. In critical times, we must examine our subconscious actions to promote these benefits of communities, as well as overcome their inheent

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