United Kingdom, October 19, 2017 : We all know yawing is contagious – if we look at a person yawn, we tend to yawn too. But can interactions or merely looking at another individual make us experience the same emotions that they are going through?
If findings from a new study are believed, researchers suggest emotions are contagious!
Researchers at the University of Warwick believe that it is possible for individuals to catch both positive and negative moods of the people they interact with.
The study has been published in the journal Royal Society Open Science and sheds light on the importance of choosing the right company.
As part of the study, researchers analyzed a volunteering group of US teenagers and recorded their behavioral patterns and changes, with respect to their interaction with their peers.
The research observed that an increasing number of individuals experienced low and upsetting mood and were more likely to have mood swings with friends who were upset. On the other hand, individuals with a cheerful and happy peer group were recorded to remain happier, in general.
Researchers largely understand this phenomenon as ‘emotional contagion’ and attribute it as a three-step process by which an individual ‘catches’ another person’s feelings.
The process can be better understood as follows,
- Stage I: Non-conscious mimicry: In this stage, individuals copy another person’s gesticulations, behavior, or expressions.
- Stage II: In this stage, people share an internal feedback. Because you mimicked your friend’s frown, you begin to feel low too.
- Stage III: In the final stage, individuals are believed to share their experiences with their friends until their reactions, and emotions are synchronized.
The science of emotional contagion goes back to 400 B.C., when Hippocrates, the founder of medicine, observed that some women seemed to transfer “hysteria” to one another
The tendency to ‘catch’ another person’s emotions is not new- the first record dates back to 400 BC when Hippocrates, the founder of medicine, realized that some women were possibly transferring ‘hysteria’ to each-other. However, it was only in the recent past that researchers have begun to analyze the dynamics behind the contagious nature of feelings and emotions in human relationships.
Thus, it is possible that you may unknowingly begin imitating an upset friend’s behavior when you were having a good day yourself, and in turn begin to morph into an unhappy state yourself.
Researchers assert there are two aims of social interactions and communication.
According to Professor Frances Griffiths, the co-author of the study, there are multiple components of mood that can spread socially.
According to him, a primary aim of social interventions could be for the development and maintenance of friendly relationships to reduce the likelihood of depression. “A secondary aim could be to reduce spreading of negative mood,” he said.
The contagious nature of emotions can become increasingly amplified when people are in frequent contact with one another.
Thus, the study places emphasis on the need to wisely choose the company you keep, so that you can potentially catch other people’s good moods, rather than their upset, low or bad moods.
While it does not suggest that you should abandon a friend who s upset, what the study certainly says is that you must seclude yourself if you have a serial moaner in your peer circle.