Mirroring (psychology)

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Mirroring is the behaviour in which one person copies another person usually while in social interaction with them. It may include miming gestures, movements, body language, muscle tensions, expressions, tones, eye movements, breathing, tempo, accent, attitude, choice of words or metaphors, and other aspects of communication. It is often observed among couples or close friends.


Mirroring is common in conversation. The listeners will typically smile or frown along with the speaker. If one person throws in sports metaphors, the other will likely parry along similar ideas. Since people usually accept their mirror image with ease, mirroring the person with whom one is speaking generally makes them feel more relaxed and encourages them to open up.

Within the area of self psychology, being mirrored refers "to all the transactions characterizing the mother–child relationship, including not only the reflections of grandiosity, but also constancy, nurturance, a general empathy and respect" (Kohut, 1977, pp. 146–147).[1] The parents' mirroring responses influence the development and maintenance of self-esteem and self-assertive ambitions. Their response will mirror back to the child a sense of worth, which in turn creates an internal self-respect.[1]

Individuals with mental retardation or autism often engage in echolalia in which speech or gestures made by others are mirrored.[2]

It also takes place with people with certain degrees of difficulty comprehending complex emotions, or d.c.c.e. certain types of people with d.c.c.e. lack the emotional range of a normal person, though they can learn to mimic, or mirror the emotions, or attitude shown at them, and then reflect said emotions, or attitude right back at the original person, while still never actually feeling the actual emotion.


Direct mirroring occurs when a person is face to face with another. It is used by lovers, people with high familiarity or interest in one another such as opponents in a contest.

Mirroring is also a technique used in Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP).

Postural mirror-image mirroring occurs where one person's left side "matches" the other person's right side shows strong rapport and typically affinity (sociology) or empathy and increasing your own synchronicity with someone can also smooth conversation.

Incongruency can be mirrored for rapport. If someone says "Great" but looks or sounds downtrodden, a mirroring reply would be to incongruently say "Good" with a similar down attitude like them.

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  1. ^ a b Romano, D. M. (2004). "A self-psychology approach to narcissistic personality disorder: A nursing reflection". Perspectives in psychiatric care 40 (1): 20–28. PMID 15147049. 
  2. ^ Fay, W. H.; Coleman, R. O. (1977). "A human sound transducer/reproducer: Temporal capabilities of a profoundly echolalic child". Brain and language 4 (3): 396–402. doi:10.1016/0093-934X(77)90034-7. PMID 907878. 

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