07.02.2018 change 07.02.2018

How to be positively manipulated?

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Scientists propose to use mimicry to promote a healthy lifestyle. The influence of imitation is so strong that a good "influence specialist" can not only change your view from neutral to accepting, but also from negative to positive.

Dr. Wojciech Kulesza believes that susceptibility to imitation can help people overcome their aversion to drinks, dishes and dietary supplements recommended by doctors, but avoided due to their unpleasant taste. The psychologist from SWPS University has proven that mimicking can be an important tool for changing attitudes towards healthy, but not necessarily tasty, or badly smelling products such as fish oil, dehydration agents and medicines, as well as food products such as spinach and millet groats.

Cultural mimicry, our tendency to become similar to other people, has been used by enterprises for years. Businesses employ influence specialists in advertising campaigns and exert influence, for example through so-called influencers. But it is not just about showing good examples. Dr. Kulesza's research shows that we are most likely to imitate the behaviour of an "influencer" who ... imitates us. This is not a mistake, influence is a two-way street. To convince us of something, the influencer should imitate our gestures and the way we behave. This will help him gain our sympathy and be perceived as "our guy". This type of relationship quickly leads to understanding and trust. This way of conducting conversations is recommended in business situations.

In biology, mimicry consists in developing similar appearance of some organisms to others, which improves their adaptability and increases their chances of survival. Cultural mimicry helps to instil new ideas in society. A special type of the latter is advertising mimicry.

The issue of mimicry, or imitation of people's behaviour and speech, has been thoroughly investigated by scientists. It has been proven that by imitating someone's behaviour we can gain sympathy of a previously unknown person (to whom we have a neutral approach), and understand each other better. Social psychologist Dr. Wojciech Kulesza conducted a study consisting of two experiments.

The subjects in the first experiment were 20 women and 20 men. The researcher talked to them about sport and their ways of dealing with fatigue and dehydration. At the same time, the psychologist imitated the gestures of some of the subjects. The subjects then received an isotonic drink. The drink has a specific, slightly salty taste, unacceptable to some people. It is designed to equalize the level of water and electrolytes excreted from the body in the process of sweating. These beverages are also enriched with vitamins, mineral salts and carbohydrates burned during physical exertion.

The second experiment involved more subjects - 30 women and 30 men. They were informed that the study concerned different methods of dealing with fatigue during physical exertion. They watched a recording in which a woman made gestures such as shaking her foot, smiling, touching her face. The experimenter showed the subjects a photo of a person practicing extreme sports. He asked the subjects how they would fight fatigue and protect themselves against dehydration during sport activities. Then he presented an isotonic drink, discussed its composition and gave it to everyone to try. During the study, the investigator imitated the body language of the subjects: shoulders movements, body tilts, gestures.

At the end of each experiment, the subjects were asked to determine if they would like to try out the drink they tasted and declare the price that they would be willing to pay for this product. It turned out that those who had been imitated had a better opinion of the recommended product. When the investigator replicated gestures of the respondents, they were not only willing to make a purchase, but also declared willingness to spend more money on a healthy but not tasty product.

The scientist proposes to employ influencers in health care. His research may be of interest to pharmaceutical companies and manufacturer of cosmetics who often offer healthy products that have an unpleasant odour or taste.

It turns out that a simple and quick mechanism can affect the perception of the product and, as a result, bring significant health benefits to the imitated person. What's more, the degree of mimicking gestures and behaviours tells a lot about that person's interest in the product. This means that we know what customers think about the product without asking them, just by watching the degree to which they mimic the person who presents the product. According to the psychologist, mimicking can contribute to an increase in the consumption of medicines and foods that are beneficial to our health but have been avoided due to their unpleasant taste or smell.

The results have been published in the journal "Food Quality and Preference". The co-authors of the study are W. Kulesza, D. Doliński, M. Migonc, A. Rizullad, M. Gamian-Wilk and Tomasz Grzyb.

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