The Contagion Theory On Happiness

The Contagion Theory On Happiness Explains Why You Should Keep Away From Nutsy People. Read on…

Happiness is contagious. And so is unhappiness. Read on…

Have you ever noticed how being around nutsy/negative people can make you feel nutsy/negative?

Psychologists call this “emotional contagion” – and there’s even evolutionary reasons for why someone else’s curmudgeonly ways can infect you.

“The original form is the contagion of fear and alarm,” said Frans de Waal, a psychologist and primate expert at Atlanta’s Emory University. “You’re in a flock of birds. One bird suddenly takes off. You have no time to wait and see what’s going on. You take off, too. Otherwise, you’re lunch.”

Translation: Getting caught up in another’s negativity is a hard-wired survival mechanism.

“I have often noticed how primate groups in their entirety enter a similar mood,” de Waal said. “All of a sudden, all of them are playful, hopping around. Or all of them are grumpy. Or all of them are sleepy and settle down. In such cases, the mood contagion serves the function of synchronizing activities. The individual who doesn’t stay in tune with what everyone is doing will lose out, like the traveler who didn’t go the restroom when the bus stopped.”

Translation: Contagion theory of happiness also explains the powerful energy of “mob mentality” and why there’s a tendency for groups of people in a movie theater or concert to share a similar feeling for the movie or concert.

Plus psychologists believe that “the contagion theory of happiness” is yet another form of our hard-wired mimicry we humans do – our instinctive human tendency to unconsciously imitate other people’s facial expressions, vocalizations, postures, and body movements.

For example, if someone scratches their nose, you might suddenly feel your nostrils twitch. Or if someone yawns and stretches and gets sleepy, you might yawn and feel more tired too.

Indeed, mimicry is such a strong foundation of our human emotional development that even at a mere 1-hour old, a newborn infant will be hard-wired to mimic a person’s facial gestures.

Hence why you can smile at 1-hour old baby, and this 1-hour old baby will smile back!

Translation: Our built-in human system for mimicry, explains why we humans can transfer our good and bad moods to each other.

The Journal of Applied Psychology offered up a study which showed the downer effects of a downer leader on a group. They took 189 volunteer undergraduates, divided them into 63 groups of 3, and told them they were taking part in a team-building exercise to put up a tent. Then a “leader” was chosen for each team, and shown either of video clip of a “Saturday Night Live” skits or a vignette on torture — to create either a positive/up beat mood or a negative/downer mood.

The result: If a leader was up, the team members’ moods rose. But if the leader was down, everyone became down.

Numerous other studies have also shown how when one person in a romantic coupling gets depressed, the other also becomes more depressed.

Psychologists believe this transfer of emotions is yet another form of empathy.

In London’s University College, psychologist Tonia Singer and colleagues used brain scans to explore empathy in 19 romantic couples. She hooked both individuals to brain scans. One partner in the couple was given a slight electric shock while the other partner watched. Each of their scans showed identical brain reactions. Although only one partner was shocked, both of the partner’s pain center lighted up – as if both had been jolted.

On a more happy note… Howard Friedman, a psychologist at University of California at Irvine thinks “emotional contagion” is also why some people can move and inspire others to positive action – like a good coach or a powerful preacher – or a joyous/exuberant partner in a romantic coupling.

Friedman believes it’s because the happy person’s happy facial expression, happy voice, happy gestures and happy body movements all together conspire to transmit happy emotions to all those around the happy person!

YOUR ASSIGNMENT: Today decide to be a HAPPINESS TRANSMITTER! Choose to be a happier person – and spread happiness around you. Plus, choose to surround yourself more with happy people. Today think of a few happy people you know, and invite them to do something fun with you. Schedule some happy plans now!

Want to improve your health, energy and mood? Check out my DO IT PROGRAM – a life-changing online home course – which gives you psychological tools to stop stress eating! These results-proven tools have already helped thousands of people to slim down and tone! Click to find out more – and snag a discount for a limited time!

TWEET THIS NOW: Go on a “no nuts diet.” Avoid people who drive you nuts! Learn about “emotional contagion” via @notsalmon

I’d love to hear your insights on the comment section below! What’s something which comes to your mind and heart when you read my essay?  Share your personal story or a personal happiness tool! I LOVE it when you share – because I love to find out about my community! Plus, it boosts your happiness when you write down your thoughts right away after reading something – because it helps to engrave your positive takeaway into your permanent positive belief system! 

Written by Karen Salmansohn (Founder)

Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
  • Kristine

    I went over my friend’s home and she had this glass heart on display. As I got closer, I noticed it was all jagged right down the middle. I said, “That is so neat! It’s a broken heart!” My friend replied, “It fell. It’s garbage now because it’s damaged. Kristine, you are so weird.”

    Sometimes we come upon things (people, animals, nature…) that many refer to as trash, but if you look deeply, you just may see beauty within the mess. Remember, G-d placed roses on thorn bushes!
    ~ signed me a throw away kid who finally found beauty within herself.

  • Bex

    Brilliant, love reading your essay’s 🙂 I am the sort of person that is up & down like a roller coaster but am really trying to be more up than down. I suffered different forms of abuse as a child so I am constantly trying to change my thought patterns etc. My other half who I have been with since I was 18 (I’m now 32!) is a very up beat, chilled kind of guy & that has really helped me with my anger etc issues. I have made him a bit down at times & I see now it’s because of the way I am feeling. I will try even harder to think happy thoughts from now on. I have signed up for a CBT course to give me options in the future but also a bit of self therapy. Thank you for your positive & wise out look 🙂 Merry Christmas xxx

  • vasilia

    I’m still laughing with the title “no nuts diet!!! I have to tell I’m on a no nuts diet those days and…it works for me.I had always this idea that I have to face off all those haters and negative people I have in my life and I didn’t think that if I’d avoid them,taking a deep breath and stay away from them would be such a brilliant idea.It gave me a little peace…exactly what I needed a few days before my wedding! 😉

  • Rixanne

    This is oh so true. I was in a relationship with a man who was constantly doubting or fearful of any and every thing. I have always been a super upbeat person and thought “oh, he just needs someone to show him the bright side of life”. Eight years later, I barely got out “alive.” By that time, whenever I was around him and he’d talk about how awful life was, I would physically tense up and have to try and ignore him. I don’t think that having to ignore everything your significant other says, in order to stay sane, is a sign of a healthy relationship. I got to the point where I felt like things were crawling on me and suffocating me whenever I was around him. He didn’t want to end it, why would he? I was Miss Sunshine, always fixing his broken world, but I had to get back to mine before his took over.

  • Jorge

    How do you avoid negative people that are present in your life most of the time?

    The maids that work in my house are very negative, pessimist, and resentful. I have to live with them almost every day.