Does social mirroring lead to bostitution? Please like this…

I like your new hair-cut!

Want to get “in” with the In-crowd? Trying mirroring their body language and facial expressions.

Facial expressions of emotion (FEE) are universal, but even small social groups develop their own “private” vocabulary of non-verbal messaging and social cues. Check out these papers by Steven G. Young and Kurt Hugenberg from Tufts and Miami University.:

Mere social categorization modulates identification of facial expressions of emotion

“The ability of the human face to communicate emotional states via facial expressions is well known… However, recent evidence has revealed that facial expressions of emotion are most accurately recognized when the perceiver and expresser are from the same cultural ingroup.”

Being “In” With the In-Crowd: The Effects of Social Exclusion and Inclusion Are Enhanced by the Perceived Essentialism of Ingroups and Outgroups.

“Belonging to social groups serves an important role in shaping our social identities. Nonetheless, research indicates that exclusion by ingroup and outgroup members seems equally aversive… Direct manipulations of essentialist beliefs about ingroups and outgroups (i.e., political affiliations) led to the same results. These results offer a novel demonstration that essentialized ingroup—outgroup distinctions enhance the sting of social exclusion and the positivity of social inclusion.”

Of course this type of social mirroring can get out of hand, and people end up “bostituting” themselves in order to gain acceptance from key group members.

Bostitute: /bos-sti-toot/ v. To seek approval from your superiors by emulating their style, mannerisms or affectations. n. A person who uses such techniques to win favor.

It is interesting to watch how this type of mirroring and social grooming is played out in our online social networks.

Just take a look at the +1’s, likes and retweets in your networks. Are these mechanisms functioning as substitutes for non-verbal communication? Do these virtual FEEs reflecting our desire to belong? Does the pattern of “liking” mirror the social structure of the group? Is it genuine communication? Or is it just bostitution?

Please +1, like or tweet this! ;-)