8 Behaviors That Are Actually Contagious, According To Science

Certain behaviors — like laughing and yawning — can be easier to catch than the cold that’s going around your office, according to psychologists.

“Behavioral contagion” is a well-documented phenomenon in psychology. Our brains are hardwired for social interaction and bonding. Mimicking the actions we see in those around us is a natural way that we empathize and gain a sense of how others are feeling.

Here’s a sampling of some of the behaviors that we might “catch” from our friends or coworkers.

Perhaps the best-known contagious behavior is yawning — even dogs can catch yawns from their owners. Contagious yawning is a sign of empathy and a form of social bonding.

Risk-Taking

This may explain how groups of teenage boys can do such stupid things: Risky behavior is contagious.

A new study conducted by neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology finds that after we witness others engaging in financially risky behavior — such as making bets in a gambling scenario — we in turn are more likely to take similar risks. (Investors, take note!)

“Primarily, our findings advance our understanding in how our own risk-taking behavior can be influenced through passively observing other agents,” Shinsuke Suzuki, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at the institute and a co-author of the study, told LiveScience.

Yawning

Perhaps the best-known contagious behavior is yawning — even dogs can catch yawns from their owners. Contagious yawning is a sign of empathy and a form of social bonding.

But there’s one type of person who seems to be completely immune to the contagion effect of yawning. A study last year found that psychopaths, whose personalities are marked by the inability to feel empathy, don’t “catch” yawns like the rest of —> Read More

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