“Monkey see, monkey do” by Tatiana Herman
Suggestibility is something that we have all been exposed to. It has to do with how susceptible we are to being influenced by other people. One manifestation of this phenomenon is called the chameleon effect. This takes place when we mimic someone’s behavior unconsciously.
Two weeks ago I had a professor conduct a small experiment on our class. He divided us into groups of four or five people and had one leader from each group meet with him for a couple of minutes outside the classroom. We were all then led outside, divided into our groups, and given five minutes to come up with an idea for an experiment. After one person from each group briefly outlined the study to the rest of the class, we were led back inside.
Our professor explained that the purpose of the exercise had nothing to do with coming up with study ideas but rather the concept of subconscious imitation and the power of suggestibility- although he didn’t identify it that way. When he pulled the group leaders aside, he had asked them to perform a subtle gesture such as scratching their face or shifting their weight, and watching the group to see if they followed. It turns out that the majority of each group imitated their leader’s behavior, much to everyone’s surprise. Our group had three people rocking back and forth on their heels after our leader began doing so. We were all shocked- and pretty amused. This clearly illustrated the concept of the chameleon effect.