The "chameleon effect" is known as the tendency to unconsciously imitate the people with whom we are interacting. The best-known example is the contagion of yawning. A team of researchers from the University of Pisa has discovered that the "chameleon effect" applies to people who start using their smartphone.
Researchers have thus discovered that when a person begins to use their phone, almost half of those who witness it pick up their own phones .
The work consisted of observing groups of strangers and groups of people who know each other to see what would happen when someone in a group started using their phone. They also sought to control the action in some situations by acting as the person in a group who picked up the phone.
In all, the researchers observed 184 people, 96 men and 88 women , in natural settings such as in dining rooms, in a park or attending a dinner party. They would just wait for someone to pick up their phone and start doing phone activities, like checking messages. When it happened, the researchers would count how many people in a given group checked their phones in the next 30 seconds. In other cases, they act like the person who took your phone and started using it; this allowed them to slightly vary the action when conducting phone activities without looking at the phone.
The researchers found that, overall, half the people who saw a person pick up their phone and start using it did the same in 30 seconds . They noted that in cases where researchers started using their phone without looking at it, fewer people picked up their phones – only 0.5% did.