There are a wide range of syndromes and effects in psychology. Many of them use metaphor in their names. Examples of these would be, for example, Peter Pan Syndrome, Jerusalem Syndrome, Othello Syndrome, Ben Franklin Effect, Mandela Effect, etc. This time we consider an effect called the Chameleon Effect.
Yes, the chameleon, that little scaly, big-eyed lizard with its expanding tongues. Everyone knows about these lizards that they can change color. The chameleon effect, of course, is not about people changing color, but how they change.
Chameleons change color
Only some chameleon species are able to change color. Chameleons are not colorless and do not always change color according to the environment. Most color changes occur due to physiological conditions. Chameleons respond to temperature and time with color changes.
Their color can also change due to psychological factors. For example, when an enemy or mating partner is nearby. They also change color when they fight other chameleons. The color of the chameleon indicates whether the animal is scared or angry. Therefore, the color change of chameleons is also a form of communication with other chameleons.
People change color
One interesting character appears in Woody Allen’s film Zelig . This character is himself portrayed by Woody Allen, the protagonist of the film, Leonard Zelig, who performs in different places and interacts with different people. From this point of view, he is quite normal, but Zelig looks different every time. When he speaks to black people, his tone of voice and skin tone change. When he speaks to the Jews, he has grown a beard and curls of hair. His weight rises when he talks to obese people.
Dr. Eudora Fletcher, presented by Mia Farrow, is investigating this strange case. The doctor eventually finds out that Zelig suffers from extreme uncertainty about the case, which causes him to disguise himself with other people, adopting a new appearance to be accepted. Zelig has a supernatural ability to change his appearance by embracing the environment in which he develops, and that is why he is known as a chameleon man. After he lied about reading a book, Moby Dick, to feel part of the group, his need for approval causes him to transform physically and psychologically.
Woody Allen’s film is clearly a parody. It presents impossible situations. But we’re talking about this movie to show what the chameleon effect really is. The chameleon effect is also called emotional infection, and it tends to feel and internalize the feelings of the people we observe, and in the same way also affects the feelings of others. It is a process in which a person is influenced and at the same time he influences the feelings or behavior of other people or groups.
The chameleon effect defines a reality where in a certain way we all act, as if we were a mirror to other people. We imitate the feelings of others, or at least the feelings that we unknowingly think others show. But this effect doesn’t end there, as we also mimicked postures and facial expressions, language, tone of voice, accent, and vocabulary.
When someone laughs, our natural reaction is also to laugh. When we are surrounded by people with different accents, it usually doesn’t take long for it to catch on to us, too. If we sit with someone with their legs crossed, we may start to sit around ourselves. Although this effect does not always occur, it does occur in many cases, both consciously and unconsciously.
The function of the chameleon effect
The task of the chameleon effect, from a developmental point of view, was initiated by Charles Darwn. In part, the gestures we make define how we feel. In the same way, the signals that other people make affect us. This makes personal well-being better and makes us fit into certain groups. Without even noticing it, the small signals shown by others tell us how to act and our mirror cells make us imitate them.
Maybe inside all of us is little Zelig. When we are with other people, we embrace the same emotional state. Emotions are like viruses, they spread around us. We have been programmed to infect and spread emotions from the moment we are born. If we have positive feelings, others will feel them too. If, on the other hand, we feel negative emotions, others will feel them as well. While this process is largely unconscious, we can take the first step and make others feel positive emotions.