UEL Baby Dev Lab

Development of Mimicry and the Dyad

Development of Mimicry and the Dyad

Narain Viswanathan

Narain Viswanathan is seeking to explore the relationship between dyadic interactions and the development of spontaneous mimicry. Spontaneous mimicry (SM) is a universal feature of human communication (Heyes, 2021). Studies suggest that it is both flexible in the social context and largely unconscious (Wang & Hamilton, 2014). These findings, in addition to the well-established link between impaired mimicry and likelihood of clinical diagnosis (Arnold & Winkielman, 2020), propone that a sufficient understanding of interpersonal communication requires that mimicry and its ontogeny are comprehensively mapped. Narain’s research agenda can be separated into three tranches:

  1.  Tracking the change in SM behaviour in mother-child interactions using electromyography and automated coding for facial actions. This allows us to map SM ontogeny at a temporal resolution far finer than has been currently published. There have been very few studies that have investigated SM in dyadic interactions and those that did, did not track graded changes (as opposed to binary on/offs) or sub-second, moment-to-moment dynamics.
  2. A novel foray investigating the relationship between SM and interpersonal entrainment. The level of neuronal entrainment (synchronicity of neural oscillations) between interacting partners has been linked to the communicative efficacy and psychopathological outcomes (Davidesco et al., 2019), similar to SM. But the relationship between SM and entrainment is yet to be explored.
  1. Utilising passive screen-viewing tasks that will show models of varying ethnicities to compare infants’ mimicry response to different models. This will help us identify the presence of social modulation. There has been an increasing number of papers reporting on the social flexibility of mimicry (Wang et al., 2014). This is yet another facet of mimicry that has not been sufficiently explored in naturalistic settings.


  1. Arnold, A.J., Winkielman, P. (2020).  The Mimicry Among Us: Intra- and Inter-Personal Mechanisms of Spontaneous Mimicry. J Nonverbal Behav 44195–212. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-019-00324-z. 
  2. Davidesco, I., Laurent, E., Valk, H., West, T., Dikker, S., Milne, C., & Poeppel, D. (2019). Brain-to-brain synchrony predicts long-term memory retention more accurately than individual brain measures. BioRxiv, 644047. https://doi.org/10.1101/644047.
  3. Heyes C. (2021). Imitation. Current Biology : CB31(5), R228–R232. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.11.071.
  4. Wang, Y., & Hamilton, A. F. (2012). Social top-down response modulation (STORM): a model of the control of mimicry in social interaction. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience6, 153. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00153.