Naked People and the Chameleon Effect

Are you always 100% you? of course right? Well I wasn’t sure, so I did some googling about why we might act differently around certain people. I was, like any good hypochondriac millennial, expecting to find I have an obscure neurodivergence. [1] Instead I came across a scientific paper from the 90s, focused on understanding if, and why, people subconsciously mimic the behavior of those around them.

Now, I’m going to be honest, I am not a scientist, I also did not read the entirety of the paper. The deeper I got into the paper, the more my eyes crossed trying to stay focused on these densely worded sentences. They were really trying to say as much they could, with as few words as possible. I’d also just finished reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy with my partner, which is a book that tries to say as little as possible, with as many words as it can. So it was an abrupt turn.

BUT! here is the gist, we as humans, will mimic those around us subconsciously as a form of social bonding. That’s the tagline, monkey see, monkey do, monkey lack awareness of own subconscious mimicry. While this wasn’t the new hot thing I could blame for all my problems, It was very interesting. The study states that how much people exhibit this behavior can vary greatly. Personally I feel like I do it a lot, and I notice myself doing it too. If you recognize this behavior in yourself, I’d love to hear about it!

I was already working with reflective surfaces when I came across this study, and I wanted to incorporate these concepts into the work. I set about finding figures in my collection that would be appropriate, while also keeping an eye out for good visual relationships. I already knew the greyscale man and the reclining dandy worked well together, from an earlier work. This portrait of Adam, paired up nicely with a farmer holding an axe. Finally, the accusing man, and the flustered butler, I don’t really know about this one, I don’t think I’ll use it, but I just think they are both bursting with meme potential.

My approach was to create simple interaction between two figures, then somehow represent a mirroring between the two. I would do this through how the figures were placed, and through the use of varied materials. So like my last few prints, these would have the rainbow vinyl base, but I would add some reflective adhesive paper to the faces, as well as some other colored adhesive as an experiment.

So after two days of internally screaming at my screens, stripping and reapplying several layers of emulsion, and bungling a few registrations, here are the fruits of my labor!

Printing on this vinyl can be tough, especially when it’s so close to the due date. The vivid colors of the vinyl can really wash out the image, so as you can see here these two boys are in desperate need of some vitamin D. But in it’s own way its kind of very subtle, I don’t dislike it, but it’s not something I really planned for, despite being aware of the issue.

I was too excited to leave the studio for the day, so I didn’t get a picture of one with the red adhesive, but TRUST ME! they’re great. In fact I think they worked better than the mirrored adhesive, which seemed to just get muddied down by the ink. You can see your reflection when you really get close to it, and It plays with the light in some strange ways.

From here I’m going to press the whole image onto some black paper, sign and title those bad boys, and then call it a day. I’ll probably do this same process with the other prints I’ve finished on the vinyl, and call it a series of thoughts as images.


  1. Chartrand TL, Bargh JA. The chameleon effect: the perception-behavior link and social interaction. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1999 Jun;