magazines psychology today

you can catch a disease if it's contagious,but surprisingly, you can catch a behavior too. suicides, homicides and mass shootingsare also contagious… ðÿ˜¬ we're all familiar with the idea that theflu is contagious. i sneeze on you, you get the virus, and you get sick. but behaviorscan also be contagious, and for a number of reasons. yawning is agreat example. simplysaying yawn can trigger yawning -- did you

magazines psychology today

magazines psychology today, yawn yet? *yawn* that's a contagious behavior,if an innocuous one. scientists think it has to do with the empathy, the understandingand sharing the feelings of another, but after a major study in 2014 they're still scratchingtheir heads. speaking of scratching, me talking about itches might make you itch… do youhave one? itching behavior is also contagious,

and so is laughter; especially when thingsare awkward! laugh tracks are hollywood's way of triggering that empathetic humor response! in one study, researchers from the universityof hawaii showed videos of people describing a positive or negative memory and when showingthat video they found people felt more akin to the nonverbal emotion the person was feeling,not the things they were saying. basically, if you feel emotion when talking to a person,it's possible the person is feeling the same emotion! our brain's contain mirror neuronswhich are specifically for mimicking the behavior of our social peers. when people watch sportsand see a player throw the ball, their brain sends signals to their arm that mimic thatmovement; it's both psychological and physiological.

unfortunately, this can go well beyond sportsor movies. research on "suicide contagion" is as old as recorded history. as much asfive percent of all suicides may be a result of contagious behavior. when suicides happenin school, or when celebrities commit suicide, suicide clusters begin usually in teens andyoung adults. gladwell wrote extensively about contagious behavior in his book, the tippingpoint. we're social animals, so when we see behavior happening, we emulate it; physiologically,emotionally and, apparently, violently. since 1991, the rates of murder, robbery,rape, assault are all down… in fact, these crimes are lower today than at any time inthe last 50 years. the number of mass shootings, however, has sharply increased since 2000according to the fbi. there are now an average

of around 16 mass shootings a year in theu.s.; or perhaps as many as one every 12.5 days depending how you count them. using this data, a paper in plosone foundon average, one school shooting inspires point-22 more school shootings; and a mass shootinginspires point-3 more mass shootings peaking every 13 days. mathematically, if you have4 mass shootings in a short period, chances are one of those was inspired by one of theothers. when shootings include more than three people, it was more sensational, had increasedmedia coverage, and could then be considered a contagious behavior. combating the negativity of contagious behaviormay be as simple as holding each other accountable

for our actions before we get there- beingopen, clear and honest about the negative effects. for example, after kurt cobain'ssuicide in 1991 the media focused on the effect on his surviving family, and the sadness ofhis friends and fans -- lowering the suicide rate. this was shocking, but made sense. apositive behavioral contagion beat the negative one. health researchers have long studiedpeers positive motivation being contagious in exercise and healthy habits. perhaps thesedarker behaviors are susceptible as well. there hasn't been a ton of research on gunviolence in the u.s., in part because congress banned federal funding for gun violence researchin 1997; that ban remains in place today, however, if more research can uncover howviolent behavior like suicide and mass killing

is contagious; the implications are huge!as usual, more research is definitely needed. one of my other shows, testtube news has talkeda lot about gun violence and mass shootings in the past, so make sure you check that videoout here. but on a happier note, nasa is about to fly-by pluto and we're doing a live googlehangout with our space producer ian o'neill and a special guest inside mission's going to be awesome. come join on july 14 at 1pm pacific 4pm eastern and rsvp onthe event page for a reminder! there's a link in the description too!