Emotional Contagion: Emotions Are Contagious

Emotional contagion is a phenomenon that occurs when a person or groups emotions and behaviours affect the emotions and behaviours of some other person or group. This can be negative or positive.

We often mimic or imitate the emotional expressions (smiles and frowns) of other people without even realizing it. Mimicry and copying the body language, voice or facial expressions of other people is natural among social creatures, due to 'mirror neurons’ in the cerebral cortex region of the brain.

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Emotional Contagion: The Social Power of Emotions Explained

positivepsychology.com

Emotional contagion is linked to many psychological studies on social behaviour.

  1. Anger at the workplace has been linked to more workplace accidents and cognitive errors.
  2. Taking breaks from social media leads to a positive effect, as there is less social comparison and less of negative exposure.
  3. The 1967 ‘Summer Of Love’ in the United States was a series of large gatherings of young people spreading peace, love and generosity, leading to positive emotional contagion.

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To be empathetic, we need to feel the other person's situation, while keeping our own autonomy intact. There is a certain distance between us and the other person whom we feel empathy for.

Emotional contagion removes the barrier and the person who is trying to be empathetic starts to show the same problem themselves, drowned in the negative feelings of the other person.

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  • Leaders tend to spread emotions in a powerful, widespread manner at the workplace, with negative emotional contagion being more contagious and also common.
  • One needs to be aware of the toxic and mentally draining nature of certain coworkers and avoid contact with them.
  • If the whole workplace is toxic, and the emotional exhaustion is unbearable, one can think of leaving the job as well.
  • Try to balance the negative by deploying positive emotional boosters.
  • We can also be nice to fellow workers, diner waitresses, or other people serving us, who may have had a rough day.

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Extensive studies and social experiments indicate that emotional contagion occurs across the digital landscape, in the various social media platforms on a huge scale and speed.

Emotional contagious content, both negative and positive creates strong responses and spreads like wildfire.

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