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Automatic imitation is a cornerstone of nonverbal communication that fosters rapport between interaction partners. Recent research has suggested that stable dimensions of personality are antecedents to automatic imitation, but the empirical evidence linking imitation with personality traits is restricted to a few studies with modest sample sizes. Additionally, atypical imitation has been documented in autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia, but the mechanisms underpinning these behavioural profiles remain unclear. Using a larger sample than prior studies (N=243), the current study tested whether performance on a computer-based automatic imitation task could be predicted by personality traits associated with social behaviour (extraversion and agreeableness) and with disorders of social cognition (autistic-like and schizotypal traits). Further personality traits (narcissism and empathy) were assessed in a subsample of participants (N=57). Multiple regression analyses showed that personality measures did not predict automatic imitation. In addition, using a similar analytical approach to prior studies, no differences in imitation performance emerged when only the highest and lowest 20 participants on each trait variable were compared. These data weaken support for the view that stable personality traits are antecedents to automatic imitation and that neural mechanisms thought to support automatic imitation, such as the mirror neuron system, are dysfunctional in autism spectrum disorders or schizophrenia. In sum, the impact that personality variables have on automatic imitation is less universal than initial reports suggest
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0129651
JournalPLoS ONE
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2015

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