This is a common experience for family members or groups of friends: A person's mood can lower the energy of an entire group … or rise. But why are we so easily influenced?
In 1962, a television reality show Hidden camera giving extraordinary views into psychological phenomena that help explain how emotions spread. They did it through the now famous comedy action called "Face the Rear."
It reads like this: we see an unsuspecting man entering an elevator that has been secretly equipped with a camera. Two more people walked after him. But strangely, they turned to face the rear wall of the elevator. The man looked confused, but continued to face forward, even though there were two strange people next to him. But when the third person entered and faced the back wall, the poor man could not stand it anymore and turned to the back wall too.
Listen to the whole story
This story was taken from & # 39; Entanglement, & # 39; an episode of Invisibilia, NPR performances about hidden forces that affect human behavior. Listen to the whole episode here.
Now the dance is lit. Three newcomers now turn and target from prank whipping to join them. Hidden camera observe this phenomenon repeatedly. An unsuspecting victim will walk into the elevator and finally imitate whatever the people around him do.
Now, the man's initial gradual turn to face the back wall with another is something psychologists call conformity, when you slowly and consciously decide to follow the group.
But sometimes victims in prank begin to follow what people do automatically so that they use another name: transmission. Finally, man on Hidden camera the video starts to move in perfect synchronization with the people around it so it almost looks choreography.
"When we watch other people, for some reason, we are connected to synchronize them with so many things that it messes up your mind … And they count that it's so fast that you can't possibly do consciously – it has to go through the brain stem, "said Elaine Hatfield, a psychological researcher from the University of Hawaii. She and her husband, Dick Rapson, have spent most of their careers seeing this phenomenon.
Some of the ways we synchronize with the people around us are clearer – how we imitate people's postures and speech patterns. But the others are silent. Like, what if you talk to a friend, over time you might start blinking with each other. Or if you see someone stuttering, the small muscles in your mouth can start moving. And when you are sitting around the conference table at a meeting? People often begin to imitate each other's breathing patterns, with everyone breathing as one.
"It's very connected, and in the primitive part of the brain, that animals do it. Even small birds imitate each other. It just happens. Run away like breathing," Hatfield said.
But that is not only the physical movements of each other that we emulate, but also emotions. And this is the real specialty of Rapson and Hatfield – emotional transmission.
They first realized the idea of emotional transmission while working as a therapist. They have clients who come and are very excited, talking very fast and full of enthusiasm. But they both found themselves starting to yawn, despite the fact that they did not feel tired. So why did they yawn?
"What we think is happening is that we are taking, under the cascade of words, depression," Rapson said. That was their idea – that depression was somehow being sent to them nonverbally. So they looked into it and found that, indeed, emotions leaked people's faces in this very measurable and consistent way called micro expression.
Micro expression is a quick and unintentional expression of feelings that lasts a split second.
What Rapson and Hatfield later added to the equation after years of research is that automatic mimicry from micro expression can actually produce emotions that are appropriate within us. Because, although the level of influence is still debated, many studies have shown that one of the ways emotions are produced is from the outside, on.
"We become pale, a little reflection of what others think and feel," Hatfield said, and reflection can have a real and tangible effect on our own thoughts and feelings.
So, even though we all walk in the world thinking of ourselves as individuals, Rapson and Hatfield think that is an illusion. "We will slip into the kind of company we maintain," he said.
Whether we realize it or not, we are closely connected with each other, and we contract the feelings and thoughts of the people around us, almost like viruses.
So, next time you are in a group and bad vibration someone pulls you down? The best medicine might be just by walking … and looking for someone who will pollute you into a better mood.