We know that a lot of things are contagious – colds, flu, yawning, chicken-pox etc. But did you know that a lot of unexpected emotions and behaviors were contagious as well? When it comes to contagious things, there is a long list of some good and some not-so-good-also things that can catch on!
Talk about sharing the load! Research from the March 2012 issue of Social Neuroscience found that merely seeing an anxious person can up your own cortisol, a stress hormone. In other research from Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, people became more alert when exposed to the undetectable odour of sweat from a stressed-out person. These cues can prepare us for potential danger, but these can also cause stress in an entire household. Proceed with caution!
Sounds counterintuitive, but you can catch feeling isolated, according to a recent study. Loneliness makes people more negative, irritable and defensive. On the other hand, this very trait can protect you if you’re in an unsafe setting. Lonely folks are more likely to treat others badly; those people then do the same to others, and the cycle continues. Be aware of these effects. When you’re with a trusted friend, rein in behavior that might alienate people.
Have you ever marveled at how a kid couldn’t care less about a toy until another kid reaches for it? There’s a reason for that – In a 2012 study, participants rated an object as more desirable when they thought someone else’s goal was to own it. Wanting what others have may help us learn what’s good for you without having to try everything yourself, which would be riskier and more time consuming. So if someone around you excels, you want the same for yourself!
You know how dread can spread rapidly through a crowd for no apparent reason? Now researchers have a clue as to why it might occur. When participants in one study smelled the sweat of a frightened person, they made fearful facial expressions and were more alert, suggesting that they caught the other person’s fear. Researchers believe this response may help people survive by communicating info about looming threats. It could also cause a stampede in an emergency! One person’s irresponsible response to fear can trigger a catastrophe, so make sure that you keep a calm head on your shoulders when in a terrifying situation.
Pheromones, chemical signals people unknowingly release, can also communicate disgust, according to the same study that examined fear. Participants were more likely to make repulsed expressions and sniff less often when they smelled disgusted people’s sweat. Researchers say this response may minimize exposure to foul-smelling, potentially toxic chemicals in the air.
6. Negative thought patterns
It’s not only moods and emotions that can be transmitted but also ways of thinking, like the tendency to perceive situations much worse than they actually are. Recent research has found that new college students often adopt their roommate’s thinking style, for better or worse. This might be due to modeling, inadvertently imitating someone else’s behavior. Keep in mind that your outlook can be swayed by the people you’re close to. And since your mentality can affect them too, take steps to shift your thought pattern if you’re the Debbie Downer in the group.
This will have you scratching your head-or some other part of your body. Watching someone scratch makes people feel itchy and more likely to scratch themselves in response! This information comes from a 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Seeing someone scratching herself activates the same areas of the brain involved in the physical perception of itchiness, probably because of our empathetic tendencies. So if you don’t want others to think you have a rash, avert your gaze when someone’s scratching away!
It turns out it isn’t even necessary to have direct contact with someone (or their pheromones!) for their feelings to rub off on you. A study published in 2013 with the Public Library of Science’s publication, PLoS ONE, found that people can catch another person’s happiness by watching a joyful person. Our emotions can quickly and subtly be transmitted to others, even if it’s unintentional. And they can make a big impact. For example, just one employee’s cheerful attitude can spread cooperation and reduce conflict in the workplace!
None of the aforementioned ‘Contagious Things’ are diseases, but behavioural traits. Knowing what you can be passing on or catching on from others around you can encourage you to cooperate with your loved ones and keep them out of harm’s way. It’s the small things in life that makes a big difference…and these 8 simple things can make your life happier and healthier.