Mimicry expression and occurs as a reflex-like reaction

Mimicry occurs in almost every social interaction.
Despite the fact that the mimicker and the mimicked are mostly unaware of the
occurrence of mimicry, it has the power of facilitating liking and affiliation
(Lakin & Chartrand, 2003). Some studies show that someone who mimics is
liked more than someone who does not mimic (Bailenson & Yee, 2005).

There exist four different types of mimicry; facial,
emotional, behavioral, and verbal mimicry (Duffy & Chartrand, 2015). In my
master’s thesis, I am going to focus on facial mimicry, which occurs when someone mimics the
facial expressions of another, with its beginning in the first months (e.g., Isomura
& Nakano, 2016) and years (e.g., Geangu, Quadrelli, Conte, Croci, &
Turati, 2016) of life, and continuation through the lifespan. It can be defined
as the unconscious and unintentional imitation of facial expressions shown by
an interaction partner. More specifically, it means congruent facial muscular
activations in response to an emotional facial expression and occurs as a
reflex-like reaction (Seibt, Mühlberger, Likowski, & Weyers, 2015).
These reactions can be of very low intensity
and are therefore measured by means of electromyography (EMG) by placing
electrodes to measure the activation of the zygomaticus major muscle and the
corrugator supercilii muscle, when individuals look at happy and sad faces,
respectively (Fridlund & Cacioppo, 1986). One of the
functions of facial mimicry
is to help us understand observed emotional expressions (Neal & Chartrand,
2011). In addition, facial mimicry appears to play a role in some basic social
processes, such as emotional contagion, rapport, some specific behaviors (e.g.,
generosity and helping), the perception and interpretation of others’ emotional
facial expressions, and socio-emotional skills (e.g., empathy and social
communication) (McIntosh, 2006).

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The
following phenomenon explored in this thesis will be attachment style. Bowlby
(1969) defined attachment
style as a classification of a person’s relationship with attachment figures.
One of the attachment theory’s fundamental assumptions is that there exist
individual differences in the way how people organize their thoughts, feelings,
and behaviors in social relationships (Bowlby, 1969). Bowlby (1969) mainly
focused on understanding the nature of the relationship between the infant and
the caregiver. More than a decade later, researchers started to explore
Bowlby’s ideas in the framework of romantic relationships (Hazan & Shaver,
1987). Hazan
and Shaver (1987) noted that a romantic emotional bond between adult partners
is only in part due to the motivational system (i.e. the attachment behavioral
system) that gives rise to emotional connections between caregivers and infants.
Furthermore, Brennan, Clark,
and Shaver (1998) suggested that there exist two basic dimensions of the adult
attachment orientation; attachment-related anxiety (about abandonment) and
attachment-related avoidance (of intimacy). For example, a low score on both of
these dimensions represents a prototypical secure individual (Brennan et al.,
1998). Bartholomew
and Horowitz (1991) proposed the following four major attachment patterns as a
combination of one’s own self-image and the image of other people: 1) secure
(positive self-image and other-image), 2)
preoccupied (negative self-image and positive other-image), 3) fearful
(negative self-image and other-image),
and 4) dismissing (positive self-image and negative other-image). Of
particular interest is whether attachment needs are concealed (avoidant
attachment) or expressed (secure and anxious attachment). These attachment
styles may impact affiliation behavior and therefore also moderate the
expression of facial mimicry behavior. Here, the Attachment Styles Questionnaire
(ASQ) (Van Oudenhoven, Hofstra, & Bakker, 2003), based on Bartholomew and
Horowitz’ theoretical model of attachment styles in adulthood, will be used to
assess attachment style in a sample of healthy adults.

There
exist three different levels of the
information processing of emotional stimuli: preattentive, automatic, and
controlled (Leventhal, 1984). Preconscious (automatic) level in cognitive
processes suggests that the affective
responses could be evoked before one consciously identifies stimulus (Zajonc,
1980). With that being said, we will separate facial mimicry (0–2000 ms) into
two time-windows; rapid facial mimicry (0–1000 ms) representing an automatic
level of processing and delayed facial mimicry (1000–2000 ms) representing a
cognitively controlled level of processing. The first is often very subtle, occurs
rapidly, and involves spontaneous emotional reactions, usually within 1000 ms
after exposure to facial expressions (Moody, McIntosh, Mann, & Weisser,
2007), whereas the second involves controlled or regulated reactions
(Leventhal, 1984).

The
final component explored in this thesis will be impulsivity. It could be
defined as a predisposition
toward rapid, unplanned reactions to internal or external stimuli not regarding
the negative consequences of these reactions to the impulsive individual or to
others’ (Moeller, Barratt, Dougherty, Schmitz, & Swann, 2001). Furthermore,
Hinslie and Shatzky (1940) defined it as a swift
action without forethought or conscious judgment,
Smith (1952) as behavior without adequate thought, and Dickman (1993) as the
tendency to act with less forethought than do most individuals of equal ability
and knowledge. Further, Eysenck and Eysenck (1977) related impulsivity to some
other behaviors, such as lack of planning, risk-taking,
and making up one’s mind quickly, and similarly but more specifically, Patton,
Stanford, and Barratt (1995) separated impulsivity into three components. The first component would be acting on the spur
of the moment (motor activation), second, not focusing on the task at hand
(attention), and, third, not planning and thinking carefully (lack of
planning). Impulsivity could be the direct or the indirect consequence of emotion
dysregulation or attempts of modulating intense emotional reactions (Linehan,
1993). Although impulsivity does not have a
single definition, self-report
personality inventories are the most common instrument that measures key aspects of impulsivity. Hence, the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11) (Patton et
al., 1995), 11th revision, for the assessment of the
personality/behavioral construct of impulsivity, will be used.