A Preliminary Study on the Effects of Behavioral Mimicry on Drinking Behaviors in Older Adult Populations
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Malnutrition and dehydration are prevalent health risks among older adults in skilled nursing facilities, particularly among those with cognitive impairments. Existing behavioral interventions do not consider social aspects of mealtimes, and there is limited research on social aspects of mealtimes in older adults. The current study introduces nonconscious behavioral mimicry as a social approach to supplement existing interventions. A repeated measures design examining the imitation of a confederate’s drinking and cup touching behaviors was employed to investigate whether these behaviors can be altered due to nonconscious behavioral mimicry in healthy older adults (N = 14; M = 71 years old). Findings indicate that behavioral mimicry increased drinking behaviors, while no significant effect was observed with cup touching behaviors. One plausible reason for this is the goal-directed nature of drinking behaviors. This thesis supports further studies to increase the magnitude of nonconscious behavioral mimicry in older adult populations with cognitive impairments.