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Title: Measuring and modulating mimicry : insights from virtual reality and autism
Author: Forbes, Paul
ISNI:       0000 0004 7659 6832
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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Mimicry involves the unconscious imitation of other people's behaviour. The social top-down response modulation (STORM) model has suggested that mimicry is a socially strategic behaviour which is modulated according to the social context, for example, we mimic more when someone is looking at us or if we want to affiliate with them. There has been a long debate over whether mimicry is different in autism, a condition characterised by differences in social interaction. STORM predicts that autistic people can and do mimic but do not change their mimicry behaviour according to the social context. Using a range of mimicry measures this thesis aimed to test STORM's predictions. The first study employed a traditional reaction time measure of mimicry and demonstrated that direct gaze socially modulated mimicry responses in non-autistic adults but did not do so in autistic participants, in line with STORM's predictions. In the next two studies, I found that non-autistic participants mimicked the movement trajectory of both virtual characters and human actors during an imitation game. Autistic participants also mimicked but did so to a lesser extent. However, this type of mimicry was resistant to the effects of social cues, such as eye-gaze and animacy, contrary to the predictions of STORM. In a fourth study, I manipulated the rationality of an actor's movement trajectory and found that participants mimicked the trajectory even when the trajectory was rated as irrational. In a fifth study, I showed that people's tendency to mimic the movements of others could change the choices that participants had previously made in private. This tendency was modulated by the kinematics of the character's pointing movements. This thesis provides mixed support for STORM's predictions and I discuss the reasons why this might be. I also make suggestions for how to better measure and modulate mimicry.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available