Advertisers, be aware: Emotions are as contagious as the flu!

On October 15, 2014
emotionsEmotional contagion is a term psychologists use when emotions “spread” from person to person, influencing the moods and behaviors of others. Mirror neurons are responsible for this, as researchers found a class of neurons in the premotor cortex that discharge when macaque monkeys execute goal-related hand movements or when they watch others doing the same action. One class of these neurons fires with action execution and observation, and with sound production of the same action. Research in humans shows an activation of the premotor cortex and parietal area of the brain for action perception and execution.
Empathy can be a product of the functional mechanism in our brain that creates embodied simulation. The other we see or hear becomes the “other self” in our minds. Researchers have shown that observing someone else’s emotions recruits brain regions involved in (a) experiencing similar emotions and (b) producing similar facial expressions. In the brain, understanding and sharing other individuals’ emotions would thus be a combination of emotional contagion and facial mimicry. Importantly, more empathic individuals experience more brain activation in emotional regions while witnessing the emotions of other individuals.
The amygdala is one part of the brain mechanism that underlies empathy and creates the pathway for emotional contagion. The basal areas including the brain stem form a tight loop of biological connectedness, re-creating in one person the physiological state of the other. The use of facial expressions, voices, gestures and body movements transmit emotions to an audience from a speaker.
Though we like to think we are aware of our emotions and even in control of them, our feelings can be dramatically affected, on a subconscious level, by those we are close to and by total strangers. It happens, in part, because sharing emotions is a way of connecting with others. We tend to mimic and match moods, facial expressions and behavior to reach an emotional agreement. Just as we catch those happy feelings, we need to think about what we’re casting out. It’s important and healthy to share sincere emotions. But, how we react to our emotions will influence how others feel. The same applies to advertisers and their marketing activities. The broadcast materials that express different emotions that are spread to the population.

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