e all know that person who bounces into the room and just lights it up with positive energy. Maybe you also know that person who always seems to be in a bad mood. Did you ever notice that being around those types of people affects your own mood? There is a wealth of neuroscience that explains that as emotional contagion and it happens without even thinking about it.
And it’s not just emotions that we can catch and spread. We mimic behaviors too. Babies cry when they hear other babies cry. There is a reason that television sitcoms use laugh tracks. We are 30% more likely to laugh when we hear others laugh. In fact, just hearing different emotional sounds such as cries, screams, or laughter triggers a reaction in the premotor region of the brain that prepares the listener’s facial muscles to respond accordingly.
Neuroscientists attribute this to mirror neurons – a subset of brain cells that fire when we perform an action as well as when we see others perform that action. More recent research has explored mirror neurons as the psychological mechanism that enables us to feel empathy and develop emotional intelligence.
Because we are wired to connect with others and emotions are contagious through mirror neurons, we change others with a powerful subconscious force. What happens within us happens between us. We don’t just co-exist; we connect with each other from the inside out.