As a Sociology Major, I am always intrigued by the functional reasons underlying people’s behaviour. I found these quotes from Daniel Goleman’s book, Working With Emotional Intelligence particularly interesting:
“Emotions Are Contagious
All these abilities take advantage of a primal fact: We influence each other’s moods. Influencing another person’s emotional state for the better or worse is perfectly natural; we do it constantly, “catching” emotions from one another like some kind of social virus. This emotional exchange constitutes an invisible interpersonal economy, part of every human interaction, but is usually too subtle to notice.
In a primitive human band, emotional contagion – the spread from person to person of fear – presumably acted as an alarm signal, quickly focussing everyone’s attention on an imminent danger, like a stalking tiger.
Today, that same collective mechanism operates whenever word spreads of an alarming drop in sales, a coming wave of layoffs, or a new threat from a competitor. Each person in the chain of communication activates the same underlying emotional state in the next, and so passes on the message to be alert.
The emotional economy is the sum total of the exchanges of feeling among us. In subtle (or not so subtle) ways, we all make each other feel a bit better (or a lot worse) as part of any contact we have; every encounter can be weighted along a scale from emotionally toxic or nourishing. While its operation is largely invisible, this economy can have immense benefits for a business or for the tone of organizational life.”