The Schema-Driven Chameleon: How Mimicry Affects Executive and Self-Regulatory Resources

Amy N. Dalton*, Tanya L. Chartrand, Eli J. Finkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The authors propose that behavioral mimicry is guided by schemas that enable efficient social coordination. If mimicry is schema driven, then the operation of these schemas should be disrupted if partners behave in counternormative ways, such as mimicking people they generally would not or vice versa, rendering social interaction inefficient and demanding more executive and self-regulatory resources. To test this hypothesis, Experiments 1-3 used a resource-depletion paradigm in which participants performed a resource-demanding task after interacting with a confederate who mimicked them or did not mimic them. Experiment 1 demonstrated impaired task performance among participants who were not mimicked by a peer. Experiments 2 and 3 replicated this effect and also demonstrated a significant reversal in social contexts where mimicry is counternormative, suggesting that inefficiency emerges from schema inconsistency, not from the absence of mimicry per se. Experiment 4 used a divided attention paradigm and found that resources are taxed throughout schema-inconsistent interactions. These findings suggest that much-needed resources are preserved when the amount of mimicry displayed by interacting individuals adheres to norms, whereas resources are depleted when mimicry norms are violated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-617
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • imitation
  • mimicry
  • schema
  • self-regulation
  • social norms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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