Self-categorization as a basis of behavioural mimicry: experiments in The Hive

Fergus G. Neville, John Drury, Stephen David Reicher, Sanjeedah Choudhury, Clifford Stott, Roger Ball, Daniel Richardson

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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Do we always do what others do, and, if not, when and under what conditions do we do so? In this paper we test the hypothesis that mimicry is moderated by the mere knowledge of whether the source is a member of the same social category as ourselves.


We investigated group influence on mimicry using three tasks on a software platform which interfaces with mobile computing devices to allow the controlled study of collective behaviour in an everyday environment.


Overall, participants (N = 965) were influenced by the movements of confederates (represented as dots on a screen) who belonged to their own category in both purposive and incidental tasks.


Our results are compatible with collective level explanations of social influence premised on shared social identification. This includes both a heuristic of unintended mimicry (the acts of group members are diagnostic of how one should act), and communication of affiliation (based on a desire to make one’s group cohesive). The results are incompatible with traditional ‘contagion’ accounts which suggest mimicry is automatic and inevitable. The results have practical implications for designing behavioural interventions which can harness the power of copying behaviour, for example in emergency evacuations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0241227
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS One
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2020


  • Mimicry
  • Social influence
  • Social identity
  • Self-categorization
  • Shared social identification
  • Shared identity
  • Heuristics
  • Contagion


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