Trusting Digital Chameleons: The Effect of Mimicry by a Virtual Social Agent on User Trust

  • Frank M. F. Verberne
  • Jaap Ham
  • Aditya Ponnada
  • Cees J. H. Midden
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 7822)


Earlier research suggested that mimicry increases liking and trust in other people. Because people respond socially to technology and mimicry leads to increased liking of virtual agents, we expected that a mimicking virtual agent would be liked and trusted more than a non-mimicking one. We investigated this expectation in an automotive setting. We performed an experiment in which participants played an investment game and a route planner game, to measure their behavioral trust in two virtual agents. These agents either mimicked participant’s head movements or not. Liking and trust of these virtual agents were measured with questionnaires. Results suggested that for the investment game, mimicry did not increase liking or trust. For the route planner game however, a mimicking virtual agent was liked and trusted more than a non-mimicking virtual agent. These results suggest that mimicry could be a useful tool to persuade users to trust a virtual agent.


liking trust virtual agent investment game route planner game 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Markhof, J.: Google cars drive themselves, in traffic. The New York Times (October 9, 2010), (retrieved)
  2. 2.
    Lee, J.D., See, K.A.: Trust in automation: Designing for appropriate reliance. Human Factors 46, 50–80 (2004)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Mayer, R.C., Davis, J.H., Schoorman, F.D.: An integrative model of organizational trust. Academy of Management Review 20, 709–734 (1995)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Neumann, R., Strack, F.: Mood contagion: The automatic transfer of mood between persons. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78, 211–223 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hsee, C.K., Hatfield, E., Carlson, J.G., Chemtob, C.: The effect of power on susceptibility of emotional contagion. Cognition and Emotion 4, 327–340 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Chartrand, T.L., Bargh, J.A.: The Chameleon effect: The perception-behavior link and social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 76, 893–910 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Lakin, J.L., Jefferis, V.E., Cheng, C.M., Chartrand, T.L.: The chameleon effect as social glue: Evidence for the evolutionary significance of nonconscious mimicry. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 27, 145–162 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Inzlicht, M., Gutsell, J.N., Legault, L.: Mimicry reduces racial prejudice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48, 361–365 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Maddux, W.W., Mullen, E., Galinsky, A.D.: Chameleons bake bigger pies and take bigger pieces: Strategic behavioral mimicry facilitates negotiation outcomes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 40, 461–468 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Reeves, B., Nass, C.: The media equation: How people treat computers, television, and new media like real people and places. Cambridge University Press, New York (1996)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Tajfel, H.: Experiments in intergroup discrimination. Scientific American 223, 96–102 (1970)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Turner, J.C., Brown, R.J., Tajfel, H.: Social comparison and group interest in ingroup favoritism. European Journal of Social Psychology 9, 187–204 (1979)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Nass, C., Fogg, B.J., Moon, Y.: Can computer be teammates? International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 45, 669–678 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Bailenson, J., Yee, N.: Digital chameleons: Automatic assimilation of nonverbal gestures in immersive virtual environments. Psychological Science 16, 814–819 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Tukey, J.W.: Exploratory data analysis. Addison-Wesley, Reading (1977)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Berg, J., Dickhaut, J., McCabe, K.: Trust, reciprocity, and social history. Games and Economic Behavior 10, 122–142 (1995)zbMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Jian, J., Bisantz, A.M., Drury, C.G.: Foundations for an empirically determined scale of trust in automated systems. International Journal of Cognitive Ergonomics 4, 53–71 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Guadagno, R.E., Cialdini, R.B.: Online persuasion: An examination of gender differences in computer-mediated interpersonal influence. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice 6, 38–51 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Aron, A., Aron, E.N., Smollan, D.: Inclusion of other in the self scale and the structure of interpersonal closeness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 63, 596–612 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Rosenberg, M.: Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton University Press, Princeton (1965)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Bluemke, M., Friese, M.: Reliability and validity of the Single-Target IAT (STIAT): Assessing automatic affect towards multiple attitude objects. European Journal of Social Psychology 38, 977–997 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Baron, R.M., Kenny, D.A.: The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51, 1173–1182 (1986)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Sobel, M.E.: Asymptotic confidence intervals for indirect effects in structural equation models. In: Leinhart, S. (ed.) Sociological Methodology 1982, pp. 290–312. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco (1982)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Earle, T.C.: Distinguishing trust from confidence: Manageable difficulties, worth the effort. Risk Analysis 30, 1025–1027 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Kavanagh, L.C., Suhler, C.L., Churchland, P.S., Winkielman, P.: When it’s an error to mirror: The surprising reputational costs of mimicry. Psychological Science 22, 1274–1276 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank M. F. Verberne
    • 1
  • Jaap Ham
    • 1
  • Aditya Ponnada
    • 2
  • Cees J. H. Midden
    • 1
  1. 1.Eindhoven University of TechnologyEindhovenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Indian Institute of TechnologyGuwahatiIndia

Personalised recommendations