The neuroscience behind trust and rapport.

Mirroring other peoples’ behaviour and mannerisms is a commonly used method for building rapport. Does it work? According to a 1999 study, mirroring is a highly effective solution for increasing trust and improving relationships. The study involved 72 participants. 37 participants mirrored other peoples’ mannerisms while the remaining 35 were used to create the control condition.

Participants engaged in 15-minute sessions. During the session, participants sat with a researcher and described photographs together. The mirroring group mirrored the behaviour of the researcher and the control group engaged in neutral mannerisms. After the sessions, the mirroring group reported a stronger connection with the researcher compared to the control group. Based on the results, researchers believe that mirroring increases ease of interaction and overall likeability.


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In the same paper that reported the findings of the study, two other studies were noted. The studies found that people tend to unintentionally mirror other people when working together on a task. Additional research from a team of Italian researchers in the 1990s helped uncover mirror neurons in the brain. Neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti MD found specific neurons in the brains of monkeys that were triggered when they grabbed an object or watched another monkey grab the same object.

Over the past decade, psychologists have speculated that mirror neurons explains why some people have more empathy than others.The human mind naturally wants to mirror other peoples’ behaviour. The researchers behind the studies believe that these implications may provide positive outcomes for organisations.

Employing mirroring skills in a workplace setting may help build team cohesion and lead to better relationships between leaders and subordinates. Positive psychology trainers can help employees and leaders within your organisation to develop these skills. Contact Think Learn Succeed today to find out how.


About the author of this article:

Eleanor Shakiba is a specialist in positive psychology training. She works with people in high intellect professions – such as academia, education, project management, research and development and engineering. Her skills in interactive training make Eleanor a highly sought-after facilitator. Eleanor is author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D practitioners.  She also provides master practitioner workshops for trainers and facilitators.