Attitudes and moods are contagious, especially when we expose ourselves to them for a long time, negativity is contagious. Much of the responsibility lies with mirror neurons, which are fundamental to empathy and to enable us to put ourselves in the shoes of others. This ability is positive, but it also has a negative side, because we can easily spread the negativity of those around us.
Negativity generates more negativity
While we're not always willing to admit it, a study by Indiana University revealed that the opinions of others affect us and influence our behavior, negativity is contagious. These psychologists have found that negative opinions have a greater impact and generate a change in attitude than positive thoughts.
In the experiment, the participants examined different products. They later communicated their views to others, both positive and negative. The researchers found that negative opinions influenced participants' attitudes towards the products, causing them to judge them even more negative. And the worst of all was that those who previously had a positive attitude were the most susceptible to the influence of the negative opinions of others.
Furthermore, when people had the opportunity to interact face-to-face with those who held these negative views, they were more likely to reinforce their negative attitude and there was even greater polarization. This experiment sends a clear message: negativity generates more negativity.
Sadness spreads like a virus
Harvard University psychologists have analyzed the link between emotional states and relational patterns. They did not take into account those spontaneous or shared emotions that we often experience when we have the same experiences with other people, but they focused on the impact of the emotional changes that cause the affective states of the people closest to us.
They thus discovered that there is a "propagation model", as for viruses, and that the sources of contagion were greater in the case of sadness than in the case of happiness. In other words, each happy friend increases our chances of being happy by 11%, but we only need one sad friend to double our chances of being unhappy.
These psychologists conclude that negative emotions are like the flu: the more friends you have who have the flu, the more likely you are to get infected, and the same goes for sadness and despair.
Even hostility and bad mood are infected
We quickly perceive moodiness and hostility, and as soon as we do it something changes in our brain, it changes the way we perceive the world. At that point, we will interpret the interactions in a more coarse way, and this will make us assume the same attitude that will eventually spread.
This was demonstrated by psychologists at the University of Florida, who asked a group of people to attend a meeting with a randomly assigned partner. They discovered that those who had been exposed to rude and rude attitudes were more likely to be rude to their next partner. And the interesting thing is that this attitude could last for a whole week.
Later they asked the participants to identify words in a series of jumbled letters. They saw in this way that those who had been exposed to a rude attitude were more likely to discover words relating to negative emotions. This shows that the interactions we maintain act as filters, so if we are exposed to negative interactions, we will have a tendency to analyze everything from a more negative point of view and that is what we will find, as in the case of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you
Even if we don't want it, the moods of the people around us can end up having a huge impact on our emotions and attitudes. That is why it is important to be very careful when choosing who to bring into our intimate circle.
Being constantly exposed to bad mood and negativity will end up showing us the bill, so it is essential to surround ourselves with people who know how to bring out the best in us. Of course, we too need to make sure we become people that others want to relate to.
The good news is that when we are aware that there is an emotional contagion, we can act as balancers by encouraging others to focus on the more positive side of things. It's true that positive emotions are much less contagious, but it's still the best gift we can give someone when they're going through a bad time.