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Measuring and Modulating Mimicry: Insights from Virtual Reality and Autism

Forbes, Paul; (2018) Measuring and Modulating Mimicry: Insights from Virtual Reality and Autism. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

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.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Measuring and Modulating Mimicry: Insights from Virtual Reality and Autism
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2018. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10062358
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