Neuropsychologia 2018 07 18;116(Pt A):61-67. Epub 2017 Aug 18.
Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics, School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AL, UK. Electronic address:
Mimicry has been suggested to function as a "social glue", a key mechanism that helps to build social rapport. It leads to increased feeling of closeness toward the mimicker as well as greater liking, suggesting close bidirectional links with reward. In recent work using eye-gaze tracking, we have demonstrated that the reward value of being mimicked, measured using a preferential looking paradigm, is directly proportional to trait empathy (Neufeld and Chakrabarti, 2016). In the current manuscript, we investigated the reward value of the act of mimicking, using a simple task manipulation that involved allowing or inhibiting spontaneous facial mimicry in response to dynamic expressions of positive emotion. We found greater reward-related neural activity in response to the condition where mimicry was allowed compared to that where mimicry was inhibited. The magnitude of this link from mimicry to reward response was positively correlated to trait empathy.