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Emotions of crowds are frequently overestimated

It´s the Crowd-Emotion-Amplification-Effect, stupid




Keep attention when assessing the mood of a crowd. Whether we observe protesters, church visitors or family members: we fixate faces with the strongest mimics first and foremost and derive from here in an unqualified simplification that the entire group is dominated by the very same emotion. Hereby a negative expression “induces” more easily than a positive one to generalize. Crowd-Emotion-Amplification-Effect the authors call this phenomenon in a paper published lately under the patronance of James J. Gross, the pope of emotion regulation from Stanford.

Plus: people who are socially unsecure tend in particular to judge groups globally wrong. This is because they are spending lots of time to observe strong emotions in the faces of others – global prejudices are soon popping up. The researchers recommend trainings where socially unsecure people learn to shift their focus off the most expressive faces of a crowd and integrate within your judgement proactively your perception of the rest, too.

„The Crowd-Emotion-Amplification-Effect“, Goldenberg/Weisz/Sweeny/Cikara/Gross, in: Psychological Science”, vol. 32, issue 3, 2021.



From the practice:

I feel caught! Although I don´t consider myself socially unsecure my eyes constantly get stuck at most expressive faces – in a live setting or when watching videos. It is not before then that I am looking around from there to all the other people in this specific group or crowd.

Actually this study is an eye opener to me in telling 1. How important eye contact basically is, once again. 2. How deceptive and misleading visuals can be if we don´t take sufficient time to make up our minds or first judgements.

So I am going to discuss with my clients even more serious how we can protect ourselves and others in this regard. If you ask me we have to say a loud commitment to facts and a clear No to amplifications, especially if these amplifications are leading to devaluation and disdain.

Attentiveness is in demand. And coaching and/or self reflection.

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