High Octane Women

How superachievers can avoid burnout

The Emotional Contagion Scale

How susceptible are you to catching a bad case of emotions?

This post is a companion to Emotions Are Contagious: Choose Your Company Wisely, which discusses the process of emotional contagion (EC), a phenomenon in which a person or a group influences the emotions and affective behavior of another person or group through the conscious or unconcious induction of emotions. Research has found that some people are more vulnerable to EC than others.

The Emotional Contagion Scale is one of the measures used in this research. It's a 15-item index designed to measure an individual's susceptibility to "catching" the emotions of others. It examines a person's tendency to mimic five basic emotions—sadness, fear, anger, happiness, and love. 

There are no right or wrong answers. Read each question and indi¬cate the answer that best applies to you using the following key: 4 - Always; 3 - Often; 2 - Rarely; 1 - Never

1. If someone I’m talking with begins to cry, I get teary-eyed.

2. Being with a happy person picks me up when I’m feeling down.

3. When someone smiles warmly at me, I smile back and feel warm inside.

4. I get filled with sorrow when people talk about the death of their loved ones.

5. I clench my jaws and my shoulders get tight when I see the angry faces on the news.

6. When I look into the eyes of the one I love, my mind is filled with thoughts of romance.

7. It irritates me to be around angry people.

8. Watching the fearful faces of victims on the news makes me try to imagine how they might be feeling.

9. I melt when the one I love holds me close.

10. I tense when overhearing an angry quarrel.

11. Being around happy people fills my mind with happy thoughts.

12. I sense my body responding when the one I love touches me.

13. I notice myself getting tense when I’m around people who are stressed out.

14. I cry at sad movies.

15. Listening to the shrill screams of a terrified child in a dentist’s waiting room makes me feel nervous.

The higher the score, the more susceptible you are likely to be to emotional contagion. Happiness items = 2, 3, & 11; Love items = 6, 9, & 12; Fear items = 8, 13, & 15; Anger items = 5, 7, & 10; Sadness items = 1, 4, & 14; Total score = all items.

Source: Doherty, R. W. (1997). The Emotional contagion scale: A measure of individual differences. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 21, pp. 131-154.

© 2012 Sherrie Bourg Carter, All Rights Reserved

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Sherrie Bourg Carter is the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout (Prometheus Books, 2011).

Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., psychologist and author of "High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout," specializes in the area of women and stress.

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