Mirroring is a behavioural pattern in which an individual subconsciously mimics the body language of another person. This behaviour often affects how the individual is perceived by the person they are mirroring, leading them to be perceived more favourably than before and building rapport between the two parties.
Mirroring can fulfil different functions according to the social context of a situation. Children begin to mimic their parents from infancy and in so doing learn how to communicate their emotions effectively. Equally, when a parent mimics their child it triggers an awareness of themselves as physical beings, and draws a line between how their parents’ non-verbal communications and their own.
Mirroring can also be a powerful tool within romantic and sexual relations. When an individual meets a prospective partner, the gestural signals that they emit can determine whether they or not the pair are suited. For instance, if one party assumes a pose denoting power – such as sitting with their legs and arms open – and the person to whom they are speaking adopts a similar pose, they will be registered as of equal power or influence. If the other person adopts a closed stance, with both legs and arms crossed and face angled down, they will be perceived as insecure and of lower status than the person they are speaking to.
Studies have also found that adopting a body language associated with a particular emotion, even when that emotion is not being organically experienced, will trigger the hormones needed to produce the emotion and so result in it being felt. Thus if you are unhappy and wish to improve your mood, assuming a smile will result in the release of dopamine and soon the smile will be genuine.