Perceived similarity and emotional contagion

Stockert, Nancy
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Emotional contagion is the tendency to experience and/or express the emotions of another person (Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1992). In this study, emotional contagion was investigated in regard to perceived similarity/attraction to a stranger and personal susceptibility to contagion. Eighty-seven University of Hawaii students completed attitude questionnaires and the Emotional Contagion Scale (Orimoto & Hatfield, in press). Following random assignment to three groups, similar and dissimilar subjects viewed fake attitude questionnaires (very similar or very dissimilar to their own reported attitudes) attributed to a potential partner. Control subjects received no information about the partner's attitudes. Subjects were taped while viewing happy and sad videotapes of the assumed partner, produced by Hsee, et al. (1991). For both videotapes, subjects' facial expression of emotion was rated by four judges, and subjects rated their own experience of emotion. Both subjects and judges used a scale adapted from the Borg ratio scale (1982). Attention to content and facial mimicry also were investigated to determine the sources of emotional contagion in this situation. Consistent with Byrne's model (1971) of similarity/attraction, perceived attitudinal similarity had a positive relationship to attraction across experimental groups. Contagion of happiness (self-reports of emotion and judges' ratings of facial expression) varied significantly and positively with perceived similarity and subsequent attraction; this relationship was not supported for the sad video. Personal susceptibility to contagion correlated significantly and positively with subjects' reports of both happy and sad emotion. Significant gender differences were found, with females reporting both more susceptibility to contagion and more actual contagion. Measures of attention to content and mimicry failed to predict contagion in this study. The results lend support to theories which assume differential processing of positive and negative emotion. They also add to previous findings of gender differences in regard to both catching and transmitting emotion.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1994.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 93-98)
vii, 98 leaves, bound 29 cm
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