Encourage Your Brain: I Am Contagious

I recently watched a TEDx talk by Vanessa Van Edwards called “You Are Contagious.” And she’s not talking about transmission of diseases—which is something we obviously need to be careful about these days. She talked about transmission of emotions.

There was some fun research cited about how our emotions are contagious, such as a study where participants were asked to smell something while they were in an fMRI machine. Unbeknownst to the people in the fMRI machines, they were smelling the underarm pads from two different groups: One group of sweaty underarm pads came from people who had been working out on a treadmill, but the other group was from people who had jumped out of airplanes.

The results? Smelling the sweatpads of the sky-diving people activated a fear response in the other person’s brains. Simply smelling someone else’s fear made the person fearful! The saying “I smell fear” is a REAL THING.

In another study, students were asked to sing a song into an accuracy software program. The experimenters had 3 groups: the first group was asked to just walk into the room and just start singing; the second group was asked to walk into the room and first say “I’m nervous” and then start singing; and then the third group was asked to walk into the room and first say “I’m excited” and then start singing. Here, the results were fascinating! The control group’s singing accuracy was 69%, the “I’m nervous” group was only 53%, but the “I’m excited” group had 80% accuracy!

So today’s tip comes with a hat tip to Vanessa Van Edwards – you can create your own emotional contagion – simply shift the frame of “I’m nervous” to saying, out loud, “I’m excited.”

And to create emotional contagion for others – ask them, “Working on something exciting?!”

If you’re excited about something, it can improve your performance and spread that positive emotional contagion.

I hope each one of you is working on something exciting!

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