Monday, February 16, 2009

Infecting You With Happiness

happy is contagious
A great way of making anything - anything - interesting is to see it from a different angle. The interpretation may not be correct; one may not agree with it; but you will not be able to ignore the view.

Consider this extract from The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell ...

In their brilliant 1994 book Emotional Contagion, the psychologists Elaine Hatfield and John Cacioppo and the historian Richard Rapson [argue that mimicry] is one of the means of by which we infect each other with emotions. In other words, if I smile and you see me and smile in response - even a microsmile that takes no more than several milliseconds - it's not just you imitating me or empathizing with me. It may also be a way that I can pass on my happiness to you. Emotion is contagious. In a way, this is perfectly intuitive. All of us have had our spirits picked up by being around somebody in a good mood. If you think about it closely, though, it's quite a radical notion. We normally think of the expressions on our face as the reflection of an inner state. I feel happy, so I smile. I feel sad, so I frown. Emotion goes inside-out. Emotional contagion, though, suggests that the opposite is also true. If I can make you smile, I can make you happy. If I can make you frown, I can make you sad. Emotion, in this sense, goes outside-in.

There you go. You do not have to think original. All you need is to twist and turn existing ideas around and give it a heavy-sounding name, such as emotional contagion.

I know I am being a bit unfair here. I haven't read Emotional Contagion yet. Perhaps it really is a brilliant book.

PS: I just had a big guilt lifted off me. Many - actually most - of my posts quote the book I am reading at that point of time. Though I always refer the source there was a twinge of guilt somewhere. I just realized that most of the non-fiction authors do the same. They quote other authors to bolster their core ideas. I think it works somewhat like name-dropping.

Picture courtesy: Sigurd Decroos

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