Mirrors Have a Modest Effect on Human Impulsivity

  • Asami Shinohara Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University
  • Shinya Yamamoto Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, Kobe University
Keywords: impulsivity, delay-discounting mirror effect self-awareness


 Human behavior is affected by various social cues. Studies have revealed that cues of being watched affect both social and non-social behavior. A subsequent question is whether one’s own image in a mirror has a noticeable effect on behavior and decision-making. Previous studies suggest that people behave in accordance with social desirability in the presence of mirrors; however, the “mirror effect” is still controversial and researchers know little about the mechanism. To further investigate this effect, the current study examined whether mirrors influence impulsivity, a feature that is closely related to decision-making in both social and non-social situations. Participants completed a delay-discounting task in a mirror condition and a no-mirror control condition. We found that relative to the control condition, participant impulsivity increased in the mirror condition. This outcome may have been triggered when the participants’ private self-awareness, contrary to public self-awareness, was activated by the mirrors. Thus, mirror-induced self-awareness might have influenced decision-making as a non-social cue in our experiment. Considering the inconsistent results among previous and present studies, the mirror effect might be influenced by the cultural difference or experimental setting. Further investigation is needed to identify how people change their behavior and which aspects of self-awareness are influenced by mirrors.

Author Biographies

Asami Shinohara, Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University
Shinya Yamamoto, Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, Kobe University
Original Articles