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Have you ever…

… walked into a meeting room and immediately sensed that something was not right? Or left an event totally upbeat because of the speaker’s enthusiasm? Or felt pissed off at one of your friends because her bad mood spoiled it for everyone? Chances are high you did. What you experience in such a situation (and many others) is called emotional contagion, and it’s one of those intangible mechanisms centered around emotions and their function. It is a scientific term describing how people's moods can literally spread to others around them. As a matter of fact, emotional contagion is not restricted to humans: other social animals also display this behavior.

Mirror me

There is an ongoing debate about what actually causes emotional contagion and why. Emotional contagion - mirror neuronsHatfield et al. suggest that emotional contagion has to do with specific cells in your brain called “mirror neurons”. It works like this: a person around you feels a certain (internal) emotion and displays corresponding (external) behavior and body language. Your brain analyses these external clues: the other person’s voice, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues and mimics them, causing you to mirror the other person’s voice and expressions. But it doesn’t stop there: your “mirror neurons” then reconstruct the emotion that best fits this external behavior, making your emotion converge with the other person’s emotion. Although some people are much better in this than others, it is a phenomenon that happens subconsciously. A longitudinal study of 4,739 individuals followed for 20 years in real life social networks revealed that a person is 15% more likely to be happy if a directly connected friend is happy, 9.8% more likely if a friend of a friend is happy, and 5.6% if a friend of a friend of a friend is happy. This study not only shows the correlation between an individual’s happiness and that of their friends (happy people seek out happy people), but has a few good arguments for actual causation (happy people cause others to be happy). But it gets weirder (or creepier, if you will).

Emotions go digital

Voice, facial expressions and other nonverbal body language turn out not to be the only clues our brains use to pick up on emotions of others. The written word can do it too. Emotional contagion seems to be working in the virtual world as well. In 2012, Facebook and Cornell University conducted a week-long massive experiment on a random sample of 689,000 Facebook users. The website manipulated the news feeds of their “sample” to determine whether or not the presence or absence of emotional words affected their feelings and subsequent posts. As it turned out: positive posts elicit more positive posts; negative posts lead to other negative posts. The ethics of this study surely are highly debatable (the experiment also considered whether this emotional provocation influenced what Facebook users chose to “like”), and a love affair between scientists and the private sector is highly suspicious to begin with, but the experiment did show how contagious human emotions really are and infers that emotional contagion indeed can be instrumental to happiness. Making deliberate use of emotional contagion may sound cynical and manipulative, but aside from the – perhaps – Machiavellian nature of the Facebook experiment, using emotional contagion can actually be very positive and beneficial to a person and their direct social environment. And everyone can do it.

You can do it too!

Emotional contagionEmotional contagion is not hierarchical: the “sending” part of emotional contagion is not reserved for people in power and the “receiving” part is not restricted to subordinates or powerless consumers. It might even be the other way around. A study carried out by Johnson on emotional contagion and leadership shows leaders to be more susceptible to emotional contagion than followers. Executives, team leaders and team members alike can use their mood to create a more positive workspace. Parents can use positive emotions on their children and affect their behavior accordingly. Friends can cheer up their night out by neutralizing or – even better – elevating the bad mood of that one friend that is spoiling the evening. After all, emotional contagion was first observed in the interaction between only two people, and although recent studies suggest it even works on a massive scale in the virtual world  (which can make it seem creepy), it has never stopped working on the old fashioned interpersonal micro scale of course. Every human being is empowered to employ their emotions to influence others. And this implies that everyone – executive, parent, team member, friend, spouse, team leader alike – can use their own mood to make the lives of the people around them a little happier.

Want more?

Want more? Don't be sad that the article is over! We got plenty of other exciting stuff to share with you. Subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter and we'll keep you up to date with our latest news!" ["post_title"]=> string(53) "Emotional Contagion - If you’re happy, be my friend" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(0) "" ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["ping_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(43) "if-youre-happy-and-you-know-it-be-my-friend" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2019-07-17 09:40:50" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2019-07-17 09:40:50" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(80) "https://www.happonomy.org/creativity/if-youre-happy-and-you-know-it-be-my-friend/" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" } [1]=> object(WP_Post)#11025 (24) { ["ID"]=> int(974) ["post_author"]=> string(2) "81" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2016-07-26 00:00:00" ["post_date_gmt"]=> string(19) "2016-07-26 00:00:00" ["post_content"]=> string(9137) "If you're a parent, you probably want nothing more than to raise happy children. You want them each to have a childhood that feels comfortable and safe, as well as bringing them joy. You know that their experiences in childhood can have an effect on how they approach life in the future, and you want to do everything you can to contribute to their chances of living a satisfying life in the future.  Add all the contradictory parenting advice out there to the mix, and you're bound to feel a little unsure or overwhelmed about how to give your kids the best start towards having a content lifestyle. Fortunately, scientific research has been conducted over a multitude of dimensions regarding what leads to happiness in children. Let's break some of them down into three aspects of happy kids based on science. It seems that a great deal of the research on the subject leads us to the characteristics of parents, outside relationships and self-regulation.

Characteristics of Parents

One of the key components for raising upbeat and emotionally healthy children is to be that way yourself. It's been shown that kids whose parents are happy are also likely to be happy. It makes sense that adults who manage their stress well and are generally content will be able to have the necessary energy required for taking care of their children. Parents as role models Kids depend on their parents for more than simply providing the basics of survival. They look to the caregivers in their life as a model for how to approach life. If your kids see that you are nurtured across various areas of your life, and that you have the emotional energy to attend to their needs, they will feel more secure. This security does wonders for enabling them to approach life in a manner that is open to abundance.  Celebrating together Along these lines, it is important to embrace happiness as a family unit. Doing so sends the message that being cheerful is important. One way to do this is to celebrate often. Of course, there are the special days for which celebrations are expected. However, taking time to make a big deal over the everyday things such as a stellar report card or the last day of school carry just as great an impact, and perhaps more so, because celebrating these things demonstrates intention. You're going out of your way to express joy when it's not expected. Implementing family traditions is another way to instil a sense of happiness in your kids. Creating positivity Ensuring that your marriage (or other primary relationship) is strong goes a long way towards cementing a sense of positivity in your kids. When children see that those who are responsible for their care are content within their own relationship, it allows them the security to pursue their own endeavours without worrying about their solid foundation at home. 

Outside Relationships

Building healthy and positive relationships with others has a significant impact on the overall wellbeing of children. Interacting with others allows children to learn about interpersonal relations. In healthy and supportive relationships, kids learn that it's safe to trust people and to open up to them. They also learn about 'give and take'. Having an understanding of compromise early on can go a long way towards building safe, secure and healthy relationships in the future.  Doing good is feeling good In addition, doing good for others increases levels of satisfaction in children. Teaching your kids to be compassionate and encouraging them to give back is a tremendous way to raise levels of contentedness. People simply feel good when doing good for others. Teaching your kids that they share the planet with a variety of people allows them to feel a part of something even greater. There have been a number of negative outcomes when it comes to a lack of relationships. These include psychiatric problems, legal issues and academic difficulties.  How to raise happy kids based on science

Self Regulation

Much of kids' overall levels of fulfilment come from inside themselves. Those who learn about self regulation and management from an early age will undoubtedly continue to build upon those abilities throughout their lifespan. You can help to instil your children's inner happiness meter by teaching them skills such as self-sufficiency, body confidence, emotional intelligence, positive thinking and self-discipline. Allowing your kids to be self-sufficient and to practise independence is one of the most important steps you can take towards promoting their happiness. Learning from mistakes Learning and making mistakes are crucial parts of life. Kids who aren't given the opportunity to think for themselves, to try new things and to make mistakes will become dependent and fearful as they go through life. Encourage your children to try new activities, to figure out what they'd like to do for the day or even to come up with ideas for their own punishments. This type of critical thinking will make them emotionally stronger individuals.  Dealing with negative emotions Speaking of emotions, self-regulation of negative emotions and proper expression of them are also means by which children can learn to become more satisfied adults. If you teach them at an early age how to handle things such as anger, disappointment and frustration in healthy ways, they will be able to grow more satisfying relationships and feel more confident in their own abilities to handle life's struggles. Supporting body confidence Body image is a big deal in our society. The media portrays an image that being thin is the only acceptable form of beauty, especially for girls. This can lead to emotional destruction throughout one's life. However, building a more realistic view of body image can go a long way towards instilling confidence around the way your children feel about their appearance. Be mindful of your statements regarding your own body and how you feel about it. Demonstrating confidence in this manner can have a big impact on your kids. These are just some examples of the science of happy kids. As you can see, there are a number of proactive steps you can take across three primary life aspects that can help to improve the chances of raising a well-adjusted and content childAre you a parent and do you have any solid advice to give? Just post your comments below. 

Want more?

Want to find out in what way our family impacts our quality of life? We got you covered! Find out more about family and connecting." ["post_title"]=> string(35) "Raising Happy Kids Based on Science" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(0) "" ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["ping_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(35) "raising-happy-kids-based-on-science" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2019-07-17 11:45:05" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2019-07-17 11:45:05" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(72) "https://www.happonomy.org/creativity/raising-happy-kids-based-on-science/" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" } [2]=> object(WP_Post)#11031 (24) { ["ID"]=> int(937) ["post_author"]=> string(2) "40" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2015-02-19 00:00:00" ["post_date_gmt"]=> string(19) "2015-02-19 00:00:00" ["post_content"]=> string(4933) "How many friends would you say you have? Friends as in anyone you know and have repeated social contact with. Take a minute to carry out a rough mental head count, taking anyone into account you’d make an effort to contact, say, at least once a year. According to Robin Dunbar, British anthropologist and psychologist at the University of Oxford, your sum total will range between 100 and 200 people – as will everyone else’s.

Dunbar’s Number

Dunbar’s Number can be defined as the number of people with whom we can simultaneously maintain a meaningful relationship. The most commonly cited approximation for this number is 150, which can be divided into a series of social networks:
  • First comes the inner circle, which generally consists of about five people; these are your most intimate friends (and often family members).
  • Next up is the circle of fifteen: the people you might think of as your ‘best friends’. These include the first five of course, and are the friends you confide in and turn to for support.
  • The next layer out consists of about fifty ‘good friends’; people you might see often but aren’t quite as close with.
  • The last circle of people, totalling up to approximately 150, are considered more ‘casual friends’, representing everyone you’d probably invite to a big party. As mentioned above, in reality this number actually tends to range between 100 and 200 people.
Anything beyond 200 would become too complicated to properly maintain, resulting in less profound relationships across the board. Note, however, that the composition of these groups is fluid; over time your friends can drift between circles, sometimes even disappearing altogether.

Dictated by our DNA

So what does this tell us about the way we humans interact socially? As Dunbar explains, it all boils down to biology. Along with apes and monkeys, humans are members of the primate family. As it turns out, our social flair (which we primates all have in common) is in fact our key evolutionary strategy. Group living and communal solutions to challenges are a big part of the reason we have thrived as a species. Most birds and animals simply aren’t as intensely social, often limiting their social relationships to pair-bonds. The Dunbar Number is believed to date back 250,000 years, when anatomically modern humans first appeared.  Anthropological and historical records show that the average size of modern hunter-gatherer societies came down to that magical number 150, over and over again. Why? Two main possibilities: it could have been the perfect size to defend the community against rivals over the hill, or it could have been an effective way to ensure an extended trading network on which to call in times of need. According to Dunbar, a network of 150 people is what it takes for you to feel part of a community, offering you a sense of belonging.

The Internet illusion

Since the advent of technology, we now have the almighty Internet, which, along other by-products, has spawned long lists of Facebook friends and Twitter connections that often exceed the 150 mark. Does this mean technology could be making us more social, enabling us to start up and maintain more friendships than ever before? Dunbar says "No"; the only thing that technology actually does, is allow us to keep up with friends who would otherwise disappear on one hand, slowing down the rate of “friendship decay”, and meet people we might not otherwise have the chance to meet on the other. So when people keep adding new friends to their social networks, all they’re really doing is adding a friend of a friend of a friend, i.e., creating more and more acquaintances, which lack the depth of an actual friendship. As research points out, the only way to true, meaningful friendships is currently still the same as it ever was: good old, face-to-face interaction. It would appear that, for now, Dunbar’s Number remains constant. Only time will tell how relevant it will continue to be in a world where virtual interactions become increasingly dominant.

Want more?

Want to find out in what way our friends impacts our quality of life? We got you covered! Find out more about friendship and connecting." ["post_title"]=> string(48) "Dunbar's Number: Counting the Friends that Count" ["post_excerpt"]=> string(0) "" ["post_status"]=> string(7) "publish" ["comment_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["ping_status"]=> string(4) "open" ["post_password"]=> string(0) "" ["post_name"]=> string(14) "dunbars-number" ["to_ping"]=> string(0) "" ["pinged"]=> string(0) "" ["post_modified"]=> string(19) "2019-07-16 10:02:23" ["post_modified_gmt"]=> string(19) "2019-07-16 10:02:23" ["post_content_filtered"]=> string(0) "" ["post_parent"]=> int(0) ["guid"]=> string(51) "https://www.happonomy.org/creativity/dunbars-number/" ["menu_order"]=> int(0) ["post_type"]=> string(4) "post" ["post_mime_type"]=> string(0) "" ["comment_count"]=> string(1) "0" ["filter"]=> string(3) "raw" } } ["post_count"]=> int(3) ["current_post"]=> int(-1) ["in_the_loop"]=> bool(false) ["post"]=> object(WP_Post)#11018 (24) { ["ID"]=> int(960) ["post_author"]=> string(2) "39" ["post_date"]=> string(19) "2018-05-15 00:00:00" ["post_date_gmt"]=> string(19) "2018-05-15 00:00:00" ["post_content"]=> string(6591) "

Have you ever…

… walked into a meeting room and immediately sensed that something was not right? Or left an event totally upbeat because of the speaker’s enthusiasm? Or felt pissed off at one of your friends because her bad mood spoiled it for everyone? Chances are high you did. What you experience in such a situation (and many others) is called emotional contagion, and it’s one of those intangible mechanisms centered around emotions and their function. It is a scientific term describing how people's moods can literally spread to others around them. As a matter of fact, emotional contagion is not restricted to humans: other social animals also display this behavior.

Mirror me

There is an ongoing debate about what actually causes emotional contagion and why. Emotional contagion - mirror neuronsHatfield et al. suggest that emotional contagion has to do with specific cells in your brain called “mirror neurons”. It works like this: a person around you feels a certain (internal) emotion and displays corresponding (external) behavior and body language. Your brain analyses these external clues: the other person’s voice, facial expressions and other nonverbal cues and mimics them, causing you to mirror the other person’s voice and expressions. But it doesn’t stop there: your “mirror neurons” then reconstruct the emotion that best fits this external behavior, making your emotion converge with the other person’s emotion. Although some people are much better in this than others, it is a phenomenon that happens subconsciously. A longitudinal study of 4,739 individuals followed for 20 years in real life social networks revealed that a person is 15% more likely to be happy if a directly connected friend is happy, 9.8% more likely if a friend of a friend is happy, and 5.6% if a friend of a friend of a friend is happy. This study not only shows the correlation between an individual’s happiness and that of their friends (happy people seek out happy people), but has a few good arguments for actual causation (happy people cause others to be happy). But it gets weirder (or creepier, if you will).

Emotions go digital

Voice, facial expressions and other nonverbal body language turn out not to be the only clues our brains use to pick up on emotions of others. The written word can do it too. Emotional contagion seems to be working in the virtual world as well. In 2012, Facebook and Cornell University conducted a week-long massive experiment on a random sample of 689,000 Facebook users. The website manipulated the news feeds of their “sample” to determine whether or not the presence or absence of emotional words affected their feelings and subsequent posts. As it turned out: positive posts elicit more positive posts; negative posts lead to other negative posts. The ethics of this study surely are highly debatable (the experiment also considered whether this emotional provocation influenced what Facebook users chose to “like”), and a love affair between scientists and the private sector is highly suspicious to begin with, but the experiment did show how contagious human emotions really are and infers that emotional contagion indeed can be instrumental to happiness. Making deliberate use of emotional contagion may sound cynical and manipulative, but aside from the – perhaps – Machiavellian nature of the Facebook experiment, using emotional contagion can actually be very positive and beneficial to a person and their direct social environment. And everyone can do it.

You can do it too!

Emotional contagionEmotional contagion is not hierarchical: the “sending” part of emotional contagion is not reserved for people in power and the “receiving” part is not restricted to subordinates or powerless consumers. It might even be the other way around. A study carried out by Johnson on emotional contagion and leadership shows leaders to be more susceptible to emotional contagion than followers. Executives, team leaders and team members alike can use their mood to create a more positive workspace. Parents can use positive emotions on their children and affect their behavior accordingly. Friends can cheer up their night out by neutralizing or – even better – elevating the bad mood of that one friend that is spoiling the evening. After all, emotional contagion was first observed in the interaction between only two people, and although recent studies suggest it even works on a massive scale in the virtual world  (which can make it seem creepy), it has never stopped working on the old fashioned interpersonal micro scale of course. Every human being is empowered to employ their emotions to influence others. And this implies that everyone – executive, parent, team member, friend, spouse, team leader alike – can use their own mood to make the lives of the people around them a little happier.

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