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Chapter 2. When You Smile, The World Smiles With You. No Laughing Matter. In 1962 in Tanzania an epidemic of laughing spread through many villages resulting in the closing of several schools.

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Chapter 2

When You Smile, The World Smiles With You


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No Laughing Matter

In 1962 in Tanzania an epidemic of laughing spread through many villages resulting in the closing of several schools

This was a “mass psychogenic illness” – also known as “epidemic hysteria” and was traced to three teenage girls

Photo by Casey Lehman

Photo by k-girl, Flikr

Photo by Federia Olivieri


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No Laughing Matter

“Emotional Stampedes” are common. Did you ever feel sick after a friend complained of a stomach ache from the dinner you both ate?

Photo by Angelo Juan Ramos

Photo from Nokes, Flikr


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The Importance of Emotions

Photo by Rebeka Ireland

Example: mother-infant pair bonding

  • Emotions coordinate group activity by:

  • Communicating information

  • Facilitating interpersonal bonds

  • Synchronizing behavior

  • Preceded language as a form of communication


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Stop Mimicking Me!

Photo by Jennifer Morton

Emotional Contagion spreads for two reasons:

We are biologically hardwired to outwardly mimic others

We benefit from adopting the inward state of others

Facial Feedback Theory: people imitate others’ facial expressions and come to feel as they do (the path of signals is from the muscles of the face to the brain)

Mirror Neuron: one system in the human brain possibly responsible for the “catching of emotions”


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Emotional Contagion

  • Most prevalent in networks with high transitivity

  • Physical Proximity and face-to-face interactions are important (Facial Feedback Theory)

  • Women are affected in MPI epidemics more often

    • more inclined to discuss symptoms

    • • better sense of smell (smell and emotion are both regulated by the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain)

Photos by Gontzal Garcia del Cano and Diego Cupolo


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Family Feelings

Experiment using beepers to record and track the emotional states of family members

  • The strongest path was from daughters to parents

  • Parents had little affect on daughters

  • Fathers had a significant affect on wives and sons

Photos by Mike Carroll and Squiddles, Flikr

What this means…when a father returns grumpy from work the whole household soon becomes miserable


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If You Wanna Be Happy

Photo by Annika Bischof

Our friends and their friends and their friends affect our happiness! (Three Degrees of Influence Rule)

  • Happy and unhappy people cluster among themselves

  • Unhappy people are on periphery of the network


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If You Wanna Be Happy

  • A person is 15% more likely to be happy if directly connected to a happy person (1 degree)

  • At 2 degrees 10% more likely to be happy

  • At 3 degrees 6% more likely to be happy

  • Each unhappy friend deceases the likelihood of happiness 7%


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If You Wanna Be Happy

An increase of $10,000 of income per year yields only a 2% increase chance in happiness. Compare that to a 15% chance from a happy friend and a a 6-10% from someone you may have never met, but to whom you are indirectly tied!

Photo by Andy Perkins

Photo by Minoria Hinds


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Happiness, It’s in the Genes

We have a “set point” for personal happiness strongly influenced by our genes

  • Long term happiness is affected by:

  • 50% genes

  • 10% circumstance (i.e. quality of life)

  • 40% attitude (what you think and do)

Photo by Duncan Hull

Photo by Emily Faulk


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Alone in the Crowd

Loneliness is a discrepancy between desire for connection and actual connections--spreads according to the three degrees rule

Photo by Tom Woodward

Each extra friend reduces the frequency of loneliness by 2 days per year (the average person feels lonely 48 days per year)


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