The comforting thing is even when we feel lonely, we’re never actually alone.
Emotional contagion is, in other words, a form of empathy; it’s the way in which we understand another person’s feelings.
Empathy is hugely important; it’s how we connect with people and form social bonds. Imagine expressing distress to a friend whilst they sat there grinning…
There is actually another type of empathy though, a more conscious one called cognitive empathy. This is where a person makes a conscious effort to unpick the signals they’re receiving and make a judgement on how they should react to the present situation. ‘It’s a chain of inferences I’m making in order to understand what that person’s current state is, this example of cognitive empathy does not require me to mimic or show emotional contagion to you,’ Dr Chakrabarti explains. Interestingly, a characteristic of psychopaths and sociopaths is a lack or absence of empathy, so whilst this means they probably don’t experience emotional contagion, they tend to be very good at this ‘learned’ type of empathy so, outwardly, they may appear empathetic.