Are emotions contagious?

I’m sure many of you have heard the saying “monkey see monkey do”. However, did you know that this saying holds true in terms of our emotions?

For years psychologists have studied psychological phenomenons that explain how humans and animals alike are able to learn and copy others solely through observation. This is done by neurons in your brain called “mirror neurons.” These neurons fire when we observe an action as if we were doing this action ourselves. This is what allows many infants to learn skills solely through visual observation. 

Similarly to learned skills emotions can also be reflected on to others. This type of “mirrored emotion” is known as emotional contagion. In the book, Emotional Contagion Elaine Hatfield defines emotional cognition as the

 “tendency to automatically mimic and synchronize facial expressions, vocalizations, postures, and movements with those of another person and, consequently, to converge emotionally.”

This means that the “monkey see monkey do” saying is 100% true. However, this also means that both negative and positive emotions can be observed and then subsequently felt by others.

This emotional contagion is why it is very important to try and surround yourself with family and peers who will create a positive environment around you. This is not to say that you should abandon friends or family who are struggling but simply be aware of how their own mental state can affect yours. It is essential to be aware of how outside factors, that you would assume have little to no effect on you, can actually be causing you pain in the long run.

This also can relate to how those with anxiety or depression are sometimes taught to seek out people in their life that they feel confronted and happy around, or even to participate in group activities that allow for a positive and uplifting atmosphere from others that they themselves can feed off of.

Overall, it is important to aware of what in your life is affecting your “energy” and know when to remove yourself from a possibly toxic situation.




Work Cited:

Flora, Carlin. “Protect Yourself from Emotional Contagion.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2019, 

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