Universiteit Leiden

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PhD defence

Connecting minds and sharing emotions through human mimicry

  • Eliska Prochazkova
Thursday 4 March 2021
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

Short summary

Facial movements play a fundamental role in social interactions, as demonstrated by our spontaneous inclination to mimic emotional expressions of others. In this thesis, I take a broader perspective and show that people mimic each other on many more levels than previously thought. Special attention is given to autonomic mimicry (synchrony in heart rate, skin conductance and pupil diameter), which is an underexplored area of research.

In the first empirical chapter, I show that pupil mimicry tempers activation in the social brain regions and when the pupils of interacting partners synchronously dilate, trust is promoted. In the subsequent real-life experiment, I demonstrate that synchrony in heart rate and skin conductance boosts attraction between newly met people. In the remaining chapters, I manipulate mimicry with optical illusion and brain stimulation to provide evidence that autonomic and facial mimicry are controlled by distinct neurological pathways.

Together, these findings implicate that the tendency to automatically mimic and physiologically align with others can result in emotional contagion – the tendency to ‘catch’ another person’s emotion, which in return encourages trust and affiliation. In sum, this research takes a fundamental step towards the understanding of the neurobehavioral pathways through which mimicry influence (pro)social behaviors.


  • Prof. C. K. W. de Dreu
  • M. E. Kret PhD

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD candidates are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

Press contact (only for journalists) 

Maarten Muns, Scientific Communications Adviser, Leiden University
+31 71 527 3282

Practical questions:

Pedel's office (+31 71 572 7211) 

Long summary

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