Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Relationship between Mood and Susceptibility to Emotional Contagion: Is Positive Mood More Contagious?

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Relationship between Mood and Susceptibility to Emotional Contagion: Is Positive Mood More Contagious?

Article excerpt

Humans are influenced by emotions of other individuals in everyday life. One of the theories which attempt to explain this transmission of emotions is the emotional contagion theory. According to this theory, emotional contagion is the tendency to 'catch' emotions of others in a social interaction, which involves both experience and expression of emotions (Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1994). This theory distinguishes major steps in the process of emotional contagion. Exposure to another person's emotional expression can result in mimicry of the expression (also called emotional mimicry) and consequently experiencing the associated feeling, resulting in emotional contagion. Even though emotional contagion is believed to be an automatic process requiring little cognitive deliberation, the self-report scale measuring its susceptibility might be influenced by several intermediate factors, including selective attention, memory and mood characteristics of both the sender and the receiver. This study investigated the relationship between mood measured by the PANAS (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule) scale and the susceptibility to emotional contagion measured by the EC (Emotional Contagion) scale. It is vital to know our mood and susceptibility to both positive and negative emotions as it is likely to influence our social interactions and decisions and possibly result in greater empathy for people around us (Hatfield et al., 1994).

Individual differences in susceptibility to emotional contagion

According to emotional contagion theory (Hatfield et al., 1994), there are individual differences in the susceptibility for emotional contagion. Powerful senders or transmitters are able to infect others more powerfully with their emotions and powerful catchers or receivers of emotions are more likely to be infected with the emotions. Transmitters have been described as being more charismatic, expressive, entertaining, and scoring high on dominance and affiliation (Hatfield et al., 1994). Receivers are believed to be prone to be attentive to the emotional details in their environment. According to Hatfield and colleagues, these two categories of transmitters and receivers need not be mutually exclusive. There is evidence to suggest an orthogonal relationship between these two categories (Klein & Cacioppo, 1993). Verbeke (1997) developed a typology to classify individuals into four categories on their ability to infect or be infected by others' emotions: (1) charismatics are able to infect others with their emotions and also get infected by others emotions; (2) empathetics are not able to infect others with their emotions but are easily infected by others emotions; (3) expansives are able to infect others with their emotions but are not susceptible to others emotions and (4) blands, who are not susceptible to emotions of others and are also not able to infect others with their own emotions. According to this classification, both charismatics and empathetics are likely to be more susceptible to emotional contagion. Besides these personality differences, there are other factors which are believed to influence susceptibility to emotional contagion including attention, self construal, power and emotional responsiveness (Hatfield et al., 1994). Existing mood is also likely to influence emotional contagion.

Mood and emotional contagion

Moods have been defined as generalized states of feelings with no clear antecedent causes (Clore, Schwarz, & Conway, 1994; Weiss, 2002). Mood is distinguished from emotion as the former is usually longer lasting and lower in intensity. The term 'mood contagion' has been used interchangeably with emotional contagion (e.g. Neumann & Strack, 2000). In an unpublished study (Hsee, Hatfield, Carlson, & Chemtob, 1990), the relationship between pre-existing mood and emotional contagion was assessed following a method of inducing happy and sad mood. Mood was measured using a scale developed by Borg (1982) which primarily focused on happiness and sadness. …

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