Mimicking attractive opposite-sex others: the role of romantic relationship status

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2008 Jul;34(7):939-50. doi: 10.1177/0146167208316693. Epub 2008 May 2.


Based on the recent literature indicating that nonconscious behavioral mimicry is partly goal directed, three studies examined, and supported, the hypothesis that people who are involved in a romantic relationship nonconsciously mimic an attractive opposite-sex other to a lesser extent than people not involved in a relationship. Moreover, Studies 2 and 3 revealed that romantically involved persons tended to mimic an attractive alternative less to the extent that they were more close to their current partner. Finally, Study 3 provided preliminary support for a potential underlying mechanism, revealing that the effect of relationship status on level of mimicry displayed toward an opposite-sex other is mediated by perceived attractiveness of the opposite-sex other. The present findings suggest that behavioral mimicry serves an implicit self-regulatory function in relationship maintenance. Implications for both the literature on relationship maintenance and the literature on behavioral mimicry are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Beauty*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Identification, Psychological*
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Love*
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Desirability*
  • Unconscious, Psychology