• Jul 26, 2021
What is emotional contagion

The term emotional contagion belongs to that category of vocabulary that, although it describes a common phenomenon, is actually unknown to most people and known only to a small circle of scholars. Indeed, many people say they do not know what the term emotional contagion refers to.

On the contrary, they recognize as familiar the episodes in which the crying of a newborn has immediately triggered a similar reaction in the neighbors of the same age, or the moments in which, almost magically, an intense exchange and union is created between father and young son emotional.

There are also situations in which, at signs of danger, the fear of a few subjects immediately spreads to an entire crowd. In this Psychology-Online article, we will tell you what is emotional contagion.

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  1. What does emotional contagion mean
  2. Types of emotional contagion
  3. Examples of emotional contagion
  4. How to avoid emotional contagion

What does emotional contagion mean.

If you wonder what emotional contagion is, this term refers to all ways to share emotions, immediately and automatically, characterized by the lack of cognitive mediation. It refers to automatic reactions that we have due to the expressive stimuli manifested by another person for whom the emotion is shared directly, not vicariously.

This undifferentiated and unconscious exchange is characteristic, especially in the early stages of development. psychological, affective and cognitive, in which the differentiation between oneself and the other has not yet been completed fully. It is a very common phenomenon that, not by chance, we have all experienced and continue to experience in particular situations. In fact, it has been recognized as an important role in the phylogenetic and ontogenetic development of people.

Types of emotional contagion.

The meaning of emotional contagion has not always been interpreted in the same way. Different studies of emotional contagion have defined it in different ways. Next, we will see what the types of emotional contagion have been described throughout history.

  • Darwin foresaw the existence of a natural and innate propensity of people to recognize and automatically respond to the emotions of the other.
  • According to M. L. Hoffman, the processes involved in emotional contagion are mediated by non-cognitive processes such as motor imitation, that is, the automatic taking of the mimicry and posture of another person, and the primary circular reaction, as in the newborn's tendency to cry when he hears another newborn cry.
  • For H. Wallon, the differentiation between oneself and the other person is never definitively realizedThus, the most primitive forms of emotional contagion, such as Bühler's affective mimicry or Stern's affective attunement, can reappear at any age. Concretely, they can appear all those times in which the confines of one and the other are confused, for example, in a crowd, in the act of falling in love or in the mystical union.

Examples of emotional contagion.

This form of psycho-emotional "contamination" occurs when an individual transfers to others-consciously or unconsciously-his / her emotions, moods and feelings. For this to happen, it is necessary that in a relationship or exchange relationship, such as mother-child, boss-collaborator or partner, one of the people is emotionally sensitive and psychologically influenced by a subject "dominant".

In this case, intentionally or unintentionally, the person with the greatest power of emotional contagion transfers his emotional attitude to the other. This transmits his way of handling and expressing emotions and, more particularly, the state of mind and the experience he experiences in a certain situation. In the absence of a subjective reworking, these emotions may be passively internalized by the other person.

Some examples of emotional contagion can be seen in the family environment when parents, who are pathologically worried, emotionally infect their children. Perhaps without being aware of the effects and possible consequences that his "educational model" may have on his psycho-physical growth process. Children, in turn, will tend to share parental behavior and internalize it as a model for managing emotions, considering it legitimate and credible. In this article, we tell you how to manage emotions.

How to avoid emotional contagion.

The contagion has little chance of occurring if the receiving subject is an emotionally stable person, with their own decision-making capacity and sufficient autonomy in managing their own thoughts and moods. It follows that, when there is a relationship of affective and / or psychological dependence between the communicated, it is highly probable that a one-way contagion situation may occur emotional.

In general, being aware of the mechanisms of emotional contagion can be useful, from several points of view, to avoid emotional contagion. Let's see how to do it:

  • Increase emotional self-control, our conscience, understand that it is not about managing only our own emotions, but also the influence of others.
  • Make decisions guided by a emotional intelligence which enables understand and express one's own emotions, recognize them in others, discipline them and channel them into adaptive behaviors. This will help us better manage work, family and our social life.
  • Have a realistic perception of our ability to influence situations social, avoiding the risk of assuming too many responsibilities.
  • At the level of large-scale cultural influences, be more aware of the mechanisms applied by the consumer industry and, therefore, to become active social agents instead of consumerists driven by impulses as unstoppable as inexplicable.

In this article, you will find more information about emotional control techniques.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to What is emotional contagion, we recommend that you enter our category of Emotions.


  • Battista, A. (2011). Vocabolario dell’intelligenza emotiva ed altro… Bari: Cacucci Editore.
  • Di Blasi, M. (et al.) (2003). Sud-Ecstasy. A contribution alla comprensione dei nuovi stili di consumption giovanile. Milan: Franco Angeli.
  • Inzani, L., Cazzaniga, I., Martelli, D., Salina, P. R. (2004). The emotional contagion: when the emozioni "passano" tra le person ... Recovered from: http://www.acp-italia.it/rivista/2004/Liberta_inzani, _ilaria_cazzaniga, _dario_martelli, _paola_rita_salina _-__ il_contagio_emotivo_.pdf
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