Tag Archives: smiling

“Emotional Contagion” in the Workplace through Social Observation, Social Media

Emotions can be “contagious” between individuals, and can affect work group dynamics.

Douglas Pugh

Douglas Pugh

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.

Adam D I Kramer

Adam D I Kramer

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.

Jeffrey Hancock

Jeffrey Hancock

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.

Sigal Barsade

Sigal Barsade

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:

  • Reactivity,
  • Emotionality,
  • Sensitivity to others,
  • Social functioning,
  • Self-esteem,
  • Emotional empathy.

They also reported lower:

  • Alienation,
  • Self-assertiveness,
  • Emotional stability.
Stanley Schachter

Stanley Schachter

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.

Brooks B Gump

Brooks B Gump

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.

Elaine Hatfield

Elaine Hatfield

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.

James Laird

James Laird

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.

Christopher K. Hsee

Christopher K. Hsee

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.

James Kulik

James Kulik

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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Gender Differences in Emotional Expression: Smiling

Previous blog posts have outlined dilemmas women face in being seen as competent yet  “likeable” in negotiations.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld of Stanford and researcher Carol Kinsey Goman note that women can increase perceived authority. if they smile when situationally-appropriate instead of consistently.

Simine Vazire

Simine Vazire

They imply that observers assign different interpretations to women’s smiles than to men’s smiles.
Washington University in St. Louis’s
Simine Vazire teamed with Laura Naumann of University of California, Berkeley, University of Cambridge’s Peter Rentfrow, and Samuel Gosling of University of Texas to investigate gender differences in the meaning of smiling behavior.   

Jacob Miguel Vigil

Jacob Miguel Vigil

They drew on University of New Mexico professor Jacob Miguel Vigil‘s theory that emotional behaviors promote attraction and aversion, based on others’ perceived:

  • Power to provide resources or harm (dominant, masculine behaviors)
  • Trustworthiness to reciprocate altruism (submissive, feminine)
Laura Naumann

Laura Naumann

Vazire’s team reported that women’s smiles signal positive affect and warmth, which are seen as “trustworthiness cues” in Vigil’s model, and typically attract fewer, but closer relationships.
Gruenfeld and Goman argue that women’s smiling also signals low power in negotiation situations and interpersonal interactions.

Peter Rentfrow

Peter Rentfrow

In contrast, smiling among men indicates confidence and lack of self-doubt, seen as “capacity cues” to the ability to either help or hurt others.
These expressions usually attract numerous, but less-intimate relationships while
conveying a key element of power, self-assurance.

Samuel Gosling

Samuel Gosling

Team Vazire’s research validated Gruenfeld’s and Goman’s hypothesis that observers interpreted women’s smiles differently than men’s, even if the underlying, subjective emotional experience is similar.

Their work supports  Gruenfeld’s and Goman’s recommendation that women balance smiling, a signal of interpersonal warmth, with powerful non-verbal behaviors to achieve best outcomes in negotiations and workplace performance.

-*How has smiling helped establish your warmth?
-*When has smiling undermined your credibility and power?

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