Emotions can be “contagious” between individuals, and can affect work group dynamics.
Emotional contagion is characterized by replicating emotions displayed by others, and differs from empathy, which enables understanding another’s emotional experience without actually experiencing it, according to Virginia Commonwealth University’s S. Douglas Pugh.
In addition to direct interpersonal contact, “viral emotions” can be transmitted through social media platforms without observing nonverbal cues, according to Facebook’s Adam D. I. Kramer, Jamie E. Guillory of University of California, San Francisco and Cornell University’s Jeffrey T. Hancock.
This finding suggests the significant impact of social media on workplace interpersonal relations and productivity.
Kramer’s team found that when positive emotional expressions in Facebook News Feeds were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts.
In contrast, when negative emotional expressions were reduced, the people reduced negative posts, indicating that people’s emotional expressions on a massive social media platform like Facebook influences others’ emotions and behaviors.
People in performance situations are influenced by observing others’ emotions.
When participants observed positive emotions in a decision task, they were more likely to cooperate and perform better in groups, found Wharton’s Sigal Barsade.
People who were more influenced by others’ emotions on R. William Doherty’s Emotional Contagion Scale also reported greater:
- Sensitivity to others,
- Social functioning,
- Emotional empathy.
They also reported lower:
- Emotional stability.
Individuals are more likely to be influenced by others emotions when they feel threated, which increases affiliation with others, according to Stanley Schachter‘s emotional similarity hypothesis.
Likewise, when people believe that others are threatened, they are more likely to mimic others’ emotions, found Syracuse University’s Brooks B. Gump and James A. Kulik of University of California, San Diego.
Women reported greater contagion of both positive and negative emotions on Doherty’s Emotional Contagion Scale.
Observers also rated these women as experiencing greater emotional contagion than men in research by Doherty with University of Hawaii colleagues Lisa Orimoto, Elaine Hatfield, Janine Hebb, and Theodore M. Singelis of California State University-Chico.
People who are more likely to “catch” emotions from other are also more likely to actually feel emotions associated with facial expressions they adopt, reported Clark University’s James D. Laird, Tammy Alibozak, Dava Davainis, Katherine Deignan, Katherine Fontanella, Jennifer Hong, Brett Levy, and Christine Pacheco.
This finding suggests that those with greater susceptibility to emotional contagion are convincing actors – to themselves and others.
Contrary to expectation, people with greater power notice and adopt emotions of people with less power, found University of Hawaii’s Christopher K. Hsee, Hatfield, and John G. Carlson with Claude Chemtob of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Participants assumed the role of “teacher” or “learner” to simulate role-based power differentials, then viewed a videotape of a fictitious participant discussing an emotional experience.
Volunteers then described their emotions as they watched the confederate describe a “happiest” and “saddest” life event.
People in higher power roles were more attuned to followers’ emotions than previously anticipated.
The service industry capitalizes on emotional contagion by training staff members to model positive emotions, intended to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
However, customer satisfaction measures were more influenced by service quality than employees’ positive emotion, according to Bowling Green State’s Patricia B. Barger and Alicia A. Grandey of Pennsylvania State University.
Emotions can positively or negatively resonate through work organizations with measurable impact on measures of employee attitude, morale, engagement, customer service, safety, and innovation.
-*How do you intentionally model and convey emotions to individuals and group members?
-*What strategies do you use to manage susceptibility to “emotional contagion”?
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