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Attitudes are contagious - is yours worth catching?

>> 28 October 2008

The Impact of Social Presence on Moment-to-Moment Evaluations

- or why we prefer to watch television with other people.

Why do we prefer to watch football or Dr House with our friends and family? Because of a phenomenon called 'emotional contagion'. Psychologists of the University of Chicago filmed the faces of people watching a tv program together. Conclusion: a unification of emotions is happening, with looks deviated from the screen to 'capture' the expressions of fellow spectators. The feelings of the different people end up forming a general dominating impression. We are comforted in our judgement when we perceive that our couch neighbor is experiencing a similar feeling; and when we feel an emotion that diverges from him, a doubt pops up. Individual emotions hence find themselves 'reprimanded', the general feeling becoming 'the good opinion'. On the contrary, when people watch the same program individually, the contagion does not operate anymore. Ditto in the cinema. The big screen and the obscurity plunge us into a sort of bubble. Hence the sentiment of solitude when asking 'You liked it?'


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