Poster A20, Saturday, March 24, 1:30–3:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Neural Mechanisms Underlying Shifts in Imitative Fidelity
Kevin Jenson1, Gedeon Deak1; 1UC San Diego
Imitation is a critical component of species-specialized social phenomena such as cultural transmission and pedagogy. In order to utilize imitation effectively, the fidelity of imitation (i.e., how precisely the observed action is copied) should depend on relevant social-contextual parameters. For example, imitation can be costly, causing observers to rate an imitator as less trustworthy or competent in certain contexts; conversely, high-fidelity imitation can increase affiliative emotions of conspecific towards imitators, and is implemented when an individual is ostracized by in-group members. The goal of the current study is to begin to elucidate the mechanisms that underlie these shifts in imitative fidelity. We determined the correlation of participants’ brain activity measures derived from electroencephalography (EEG) while participants observed actions and the fidelity of their subsequent imitation, operationalized as the literal reproduction of goal-directed and non-goal-directed actions. We used an in-group ostracism manipulation, a version of the Cyberball task that has been shown to modulate imitative fidelity, in order to induce within-subject variation. While we failed to replicate findings reporting links between ostracism and imitative fidelity, our findings indicate that a general increase in frontal motor inhibition during the encoding of both goal-directed and non-goal-directed actions is correlated with higher fidelity imitation. Additionally, these results raise questions about how motor resonance, and its detection in the EEG (i.e., mu-suppression), should be understood. Motor resonance is typically conceived of as an increase somato-motor cortex activity. However, it might also involve inhibitory processes by recruiting frontal cortices responsible for top-down control of action.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Person perception