Something I’ve noticed quite a bit recently, is the human ability to parrot other people. Ever noticed that before? You might have a friend, parent maybe, who, when you speak, say a certain word or sentence, you can hear them echoing in your own mind as if suddenly they possessed you to say it, because it’s definitely not something you say regularly? I want to delve into this further, because it’s something I seem to pick up on way more than anyone I’ve ever met before. An example could be, around last year, I went through a phase where I was particularly obsessed with the tenth doctor from Doctor Who, a character with an exceptionally quirky personality, and one with many mannerisms. Because I, more than other people, I guess, am prone to what I’ve called “parroting” I also went through a “tenth doctor” phase in my real life (outside of watching it as often as I could)… This meant that, for some strange reason, I developed all his mannerisms to be my own. A particular one, that any fans of the show will be able to remember, is his tendency to quirk his head to the side, raise his right eyebrow, and state “well…”, in any circumstance he possibly could. Because I was watching him do this so often, I developed his mannerism, and started doing the exact same thing, all the time. Not only did I never notice I was saying it until after it had come out of my mouth, but every time I did realize it, I could hear him saying it in my own head. Now, that might have something to do with echoic hearing, but it still doesn’t exactly explain why I did this.
Another example, that might be easier for people who aren’t quite as obsessed with David Tennant as I am, is when you hear yourself mimicking your parent. You spend so much time with them, you’re bound to develop some of their quirks into your own personality. I’ve even noticed that sometimes my parents will parrot my grandparents, which shows that it is something everyone does, just without noticing. So, then, why do we do this? Is it simply because our brain hears something so often it can’t help but copy that? Or is there a deeper meaning behind it?
Well, I’ve done some research, and can you guess what I’ve found? I’ll tell you the boring part first: Copying people’s behaviour and body language is definitely normal, it’s how humans learn. How we learn to behave “normally” in society. We already knew that, though. But what happens if it’s someone’s mannerisms, their way of speech, their quirks… What if it’s their personality?
Now, the research I’ve come up with hasn’t been very fruitful, sadly. Apparently, many people struggle with this, just like me. But then there’s this whole other side of it, where it can apparently be classified as a personality disorder. Now, I wouldn’t say I have one, because I don’t think I’m that far, however I do think it’s possible that it can be the result of some emotional trauma, if that’s what you could call it. For me, I’ve struggled a lot with personalities, in the sense that, because of the time we’re in, it’s not okay to be an introvert (which I most certainly am). To be “interesting” you have to be snarky, smart, sassy, quirky, and loud-spoken. Everything I’m not, especially when around new people. To compensate for this, then, I think I steal quirks (and sass) from other people. Especially fictional characters, because they (especially the ones that stand out) tend to be quite quirky, expressive, and exiting.
Now, that reasoning makes sense to me, but I’ve even seen people deem this as being a sociopath! I mean, yeah, now that I’ve been watching Sherlock for so long I kind of do talk like him, and tend to see myself with the same mannerisms as he does, but that doesn’t mean I’m a sociopath too, does it?! Is this even a bad thing? I’m not really sure. Personally, I quite like to think that it makes me feel closer to the characters, and as if I can bring them everywhere with me (again, however, that might have a lot to do with echoic memory). It might be me trying my best to hide my true personality under loads of other people’s personalities, so that mine doesn’t get damaged. To be honest, there are probably plenty of scientific, psychological, and emotional reasons for this strange trait. I guess I’ll never really know whether I suffer from a small personality disorder, whether this is completely normal, or if I’ve suffered from some emotional trauma that made me want to subconsciously hide my personality.
The answers are endless, but what do you think about it? Do you tend to mimic others, pick up their quirks and use them as your own subconsciously? I’d love to know if others experience the same thing!
“Nothing of me is original. I am a combined effort of everyone I’ve ever met.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters.