One of the first things taught on “How to be more persuasive” courses is how to subtly mimic your potential client or customer’s body language to make the other person more responsive to your charms.
However reminders of money reverse the effects of mimicry and make the mimic less liked and those being mimicked feel threatened.
If you’ve been trained in the black arts of NLP you will also know all bout mirroring and matching and there is a substantial amount of research on what is also called postural echo. When we are getting on with someone we tend to unconsciously match their body movements and find ourselves moving in synch. (Conversely deliberately getting out of synch will break the spell and tells the other person, perhaps at an unconscious level, that we are not interested).
But when we are mimicking body language it seems that we are perceived as more trustworthy and attractive and it puts us in a better mood and more likely to be helpful to others.
So it seems reasonable that if we were to do that consciously then we would recreate that feeling.
Research by Jia Liu however, reported in the September issue of Psychological Science, shows that the feel-good factor can be undermined and disrupted by the introduction of money or reminders of it.
Their experiment involved participants answering irrelevant questions on a computer which had either a wallpaper of shells or of monetary symbols. This was followed by a 10 minute session working in pairs with a stranger who either mimicked or didn’t. They then rated how much they liked that person and completed a questionnaire about how threatened they felt.
Without the reminder of money the participants reported the usual benefits of liking their partner more and feeling less threatened. However those participants reminded of money at the outset liked their partner less and felt more threatened than the other participants.
The experiment showed that whilst mimicking someone’s body language usually has positive benefits being reminded of money – which triggers ideas of selfishness and egocentricity and makes us yearn for autonomy – has a negative effect.
Source: The Psychologist Vol 24 No 11 November 2011