Empathizing via mimicry depends on whether emotional expressions are seen as real

Mariëlle Stel*, Roos Vonk

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    The present studies investigated whether mimicry effects on empathizing depend on whether emotional expressions are seen as acted or real. In Study 1, participants saw a fragment from a reality "soap." Half of them received an instruction to imitate facial expressions of the main character, while the other half were instructed not to imitate. Participants caught more emotions and reported more perspective-taking (taking the perspective of the target) when imitating expressions. However, among participants who assumed that the emotions were acted, imitation affected emotional contagion, but not perspective-taking. These effects were replicated in Study 2, in which we manipulated whether emotions were perceived as real. In the Discussion, these findings are linked to the social functions of imitation and to the automaticity of emotional contagion.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)342-350
    Number of pages9
    JournalEuropean Psychologist
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009


    • Emotions
    • Empathy
    • Facial expressions
    • Imitation
    • Mimicry


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