We investigated the effect of posture congruence on social perception. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that completing "body gestalts," rather than being a purely visual process, is mediated by congruence in the postures of observer and stimulus. We developed novel stimuli showing a face and 2 hands that could be combined in various ways to form "body gestalts" implying different postures. In 3 experiments we found that imitative finger movements were consistently faster when the observer's posture matched the posture implied by the configuration of face and hands shown onscreen, suggesting that participants intuitively used their own body schema to "fill in the gaps" in the stimuli. Besides shaping how humans perceive others' bodies, embodied body-gestalt (eBG) completion may be an essential social and survival mechanism, for example, allowing for quick recovery from deceptive actions. It may also partly explain why humans subconsciously align themselves in everyday interactions: This might facilitate optimal corepresentation at higher, conscious levels.
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Kessler, K., & Miellet, S. (2013). Perceiving conspecifics as integrated body-gestalts is an embodied process. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142(3), 774-790. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0029617