Emotions Pass Along A Friendship Network Like a Contagion, Study Finds
Even things like appetite and tiredness move through social networks, researchers found.
I have a friend that’s been teaching for over a decade in a difficult, inner city neighborhood in northern New Jersey. She’s a gregarious, warm-hearted, motivated teacher and she’s made quite an impact. Despite many challenges, her children score among the highest in the state, and she’s won several awards. Recently, a student of hers who’s earned his master’s degree and is finishing up his second book, asked her to write the foreword to his latest tome, which he hopes will inspire youth like himself when he was growing up. I helped her with the foreword.
He said in the book that while a superb athlete, he was weak academically as a child. But my friend, instead of lumping him together with other students who struggled, placed him with high achieving students, instead. This pushed the author. He felt challenged. He couldn’t allow himself to slack off. It motivated him to do well in school. My friend’s former student wrote that he adopted this practice as his personal philosophy, to surround himself with those who challenge, aid, and motivate him, and help him to succeed.
The bottom line, humans are social creatures. Although our culture serves everything up on the altar of individualism, we are in fact far more influenced by those around us than we’d like to believe. It even comes down to our emotions and mood, which can ultimately affect our performance, for good or ill.
Emotions are contagious. Several studies have shown this. But a new one out of the University of Warwick in the UK, adds a new dimension that moods spread, particularly among teens. Not only are moods spread through the process known as social contagion, your clique's prevailing mood can also keep you stuck in the same emotional gear. Researchers started out wanting to know if moods could be transferred among people in the same friendship circle.
Moods travel through friend networks through a process called social contagion. Getty Images.
Investigators analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. They then employed mathematical modeling to gain insight into that data. This is a long-term study with questionnaires given out in US schools. The form includes questions about a student’s mood and friendship network. Researchers selected students in grades 7-12 in 1994-1995 and followed their cases up until 2008, when they were adults. Investigators found that the overwhelming mood of a group of friends can influence the mood of any individual adolescent.
Those in pessimistic social circles were more apt to so-called depressive symptoms, such as tiredness, lack of interest, sadness, poor concentration, feelings of worthlessness, and more. This wasn’t enough to thrust someone into outright depression, however. On the flip-side upbeat, empathetic, helpful friends were likely to lift an adolescent’s spirits and keep them elevated.
Patterns emerged for things like appetite, tiredness, and sleep within friendship networks as well. One relief was that clinical depression was not found to be contagious. This squares with previous studies. The results of this latest one was published in the journal, Royal Society Open Science.
While negative group moods brought individuals down, positive moods lifted them up. Getty Images.
Moods spread via social contagion from one person to the next. Previous studies have mapped out how a mood can change the emotional profile of everyone within a social network. Researchers in this study believe negative moods could be counteracted by introducing positive friendships.
Rob Eyre is a public health statistics researcher at the university. He led the study. "Clearly, a greater understanding of how changes in the mood of adolescents are affected by the mood of their friends would be beneficial in informing interventions tackling adolescent depression," Eyre said.
On another front, many in the psychological community believe sub-threshold depressive symptoms should be addressed by public health systems, in order to stop them from growing worse. Prof. Frances Griffiths, from the University of Warwick Medical School, was a co-author of this study.
Sub-threshold levels of depressive symptoms in adolescents is an issue of great current concern as they have been found to be very common, to cause a reduced quality of life, and to lead to greater risk of depression later on in life than having no symptoms at all. Understanding that these components of mood can spread socially suggests that while the primary target of social interventions should be to increase friendships.
To learn more about how moods and emotions are contagious, click here:
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.
Quantum Mechanics, Onions, and a Theory of Everything<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="036ae7b8dd661df2d125a3421a0299ba"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bcVruA0AJ-o?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."
Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.