David Hamilton was recently discussing Science and the Sentive and said that during last year (2010) developments in the study of emotions and a specialized set of brain cells known as Mirror Neurons had shone a light upon one way in that we are able to sense the mental and emotional state of others.
David said that when you see any expression on a person’s face, these ‘mirror neurons ‘ are activated and they stimulate all the muscles necessary for you to make the same face. In a sense you mirror their expressions, and it’s completely unconscious. So if you hang around with happy people you will probably find yourself smiling more because they are smiling, and not just because of what they are saying or how they are acting, but because of how they feel.
This is because as well as the mirror neurons replicating the same facial expressions, they send a signal to some of the emotional circuits of the brain and these replicate the emotion that accompanies that facial expression. So you end up feeling how others feel.
This direct transmission of emotional state from one person to another is known as ‘Emotional Contagion’, and refers to the contagiousness of emotions. We’ve often said that smiling is contagious and gets passed around and its good to know that science can finally back this up. So go on, pass the smile around…
In the same way, if a person said they felt fine but underneath they were suffering emotionally. They might be able to successfully hide their true feelings from you on the surface, but from time to time there will be tiny flashes of emotion on their face, as well as pupil movements and even body gestures, that are so subtle and so rapid that no one is consciously aware of them. But, these expressions will betray their real feelings because your mirror neurons will pick them up. And, of course, they will stimulate your mirror facial expressions as well as the emotional brain circuits that correspond to them, so that you get tiny flashes of emotion. You just have a feeling about the person.
Indeed, these emotions are the emotions that the person is feeling. In this way, you literally sense how they are feeling. It is pleasing that science has now come to understand this aspect of intuition as a real phenomenon and not something to be dismissed as in the past. It also explains why you started out feeling great but then when in the company of someone who is feeling down you feel drained. So choose your company wisely and ensure that you dont take on ‘others’ stuff.
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