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Brownbag: Dr. Wendy Berry Mendes (UC San Francisco)

Brownbag: Dr. Wendy Berry Mendes (UC San Francisco)

On October 25th, 2021, Dr. Wendy Berry Mendes from University of California San Francisco gave a great talk at our weekly Social-Personality Brownbag series, titled: Affect contagion: Physiologic covariation among strangers and close others.

Please click here for more info about her research program!


Emotions, thoughts, and intentions are not simply concepts that live privately in one’s minds, but rather, affective states emanate from us via multiple channels – voice, posture, facial expressions, and behavior – and influence those around us. Affect contagion, or the spread of affective states—including stress, emotions, motivation—from one person to another, is studied in a variety of ways in the social sciences: sociologists find that happiness is contagious within social networks, social psychologists show that mimicking others behaviors increases liking, and neuroscientists demonstrate that observing someone experience pain may produce similar neural activation as experiencing pain. In this talk, I will discuss a series of experiments exploring the antecedents and consequences of affect contagion using dynamic psychophysiological measurement. The experiments include ones focusing on mothers and children and explore how infants “catch” their mothers’ stress reactivity and how touch potentiates stress contagion. Another series of experiments explore how recently acquainted individuals can catch each others’ affective state and how moderators such as racial/ethnic group, social standing, valence and empathetic tendencies moderate affect contagion.