Brain WiFi ~ Life Is Great

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Brain WiFi

Our brains have a built in WiFi (wireless fidelity system) to read and
imitate others' emotions in a matter of milliseconds. There is great
adaptive value to quickly recognizing danger and reacting to it before
the conscious mind even has time to figure things out. Our WiFi system
also facilities rapport, shared emotions, and emotional bonding.

When you see someone scratch, yawn, or smile, your premotor muscles
activate to do the same. What determines the movement it executed is
beyond the scope of this article. What is clear from
Daniel Goleman's
research on Social Intelligence is that you are programmed to imitate other
people. Two implications come to my mind for our goal of thinking,
feeling, looking, and being happier.

1) You become like the people you are around. If you are around dour,
sour people, it drags your mood downwards. If you associate with upbeat
people who smile a lot, you will smile more as well. I'm not suggesting
you get a divorce because your spouse doesn't smile enough. But it is
worth considering whether the friends you choose, the activities you go
to, and your workplace pulls you up or down. At the least, adopt a
belief that you gravitate to upbeat people. You may want to consider
whether you want to make some changes in how you spend your time or even
whether your job could be structured differently or is ultimately a job
you want to stay with.

It is interesting to theorize what can go wrong with emotional WiFi.
Stereotypical lab scientists who do great research but are inept with
people have a WiFi system that pays little attention to input. Anti-social
personalities may or may not read others well but ignore empathy.
Dependent personalities too readily absorb and react to everyone else's

2) When one person is smiling and another frowning, which emotion is
most contagious? One influence is power; i.e., people are more likely to
mirror the boss's emotions than the boss is to mirror theirs. Power
aside, it usually is the person with the strongest personality. By
strongest personality I mean the person who has the clearest self-concept
about who he or she is, especially emotionally, and stays with that default
program most of the time. Thus, a person who has a self-concept of
being an upbeat, very resilient person who rarely gets pulled down is
likely to be emotionally dominant with others. He is also likely to have
what I would call an emotional immunity to others' negative emotions.

Make a statement about your emotional self-concept. Does it give you
the benefits I just described?

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