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The Many Faces of Emotional Contagion: An Affective Process Theory of Affective Linkage

Organizational Psychology Review, 2014, Forthcoming

69 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2014 Last revised: 18 Oct 2014

Hillary Anger Elfenbein

Washington University in St. Louis, Olin School of Business

Date Written: June 29, 2014

Abstract

Emotional contagion — emotions being linked across people — has captured psychologists’ attention yet little is known about its mechanisms. Early influential treatments focused on primitive mimicry. Later accounts emphasized (a) social comparison, whereby people compare their feelings with compatriots’, (b) emotional interpretation, where others’ expressive displays serve as information, and (c) empathy, or imagining another person’s feelings. This paper introduces affective process theory (APT), which unifies these mechanisms and identifies others. Using a rule-governed theoretical process, APT reveals 10 distinct mechanisms that connect people’s affective states, which fall into three types. Convergent linkage occurs when individuals share the same vantage point and interpretations of emotionally evocative stimuli. Divergent linkage occurs with a shared vantage point but different interpretations. Complementary linkage occurs when the other person is itself the stimulus. APT integrates past findings on moderating factors such as social closeness and cooperation. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.

Keywords: emotion, affect, emotional contagion, affective linkage, interpersonal emotion transfer

Suggested Citation

Elfenbein, Hillary Anger, The Many Faces of Emotional Contagion: An Affective Process Theory of Affective Linkage (June 29, 2014). Organizational Psychology Review, 2014, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2460566

Hillary Anger Elfenbein (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis, Olin School of Business ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1133
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States

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