What makes smiling/laughing so contagious? All it takes is for someone else to smile at me and I automatically want to smile back

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What makes smiling/laughing so contagious? All it takes is for someone else to smile at me and I automatically want to smile back

In: Biology

It’s probably the remains of our animal herd days. The contagiousness of smiles even yawns and all that

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We’re pack animals that unconsciously try to connect to anything. Mirroring is a great way to build connections so without thinking we mirror those around us to try to build our “pack”

Empathy is a factor. Empathic people tend to be more susceptible to mimicking others. Psycho and sociopaths I expect find this tricky.

If you’re asking about what’s physically happening in the brain– it starts with mirror neurons and then gets reinforced by positive feedback (Not an expert, but this is what I understand)

Mirror neurons activate when we see someone doing something. So for example, if you saw someone toss a baseball, (especially if you’d never seen it before) the mirror neurons in your head would light up the parts of your brain that would light up as if YOU were trying to toss a ball.

Additionally: for smiling specifically, you have been trained from birth to like smiling. Originally it was the mirror neurons that helped you figure out how to actually smile (babies are not born knowing how to do this) you mirrored what every face around you was doing at you, but smiling also became very strongly associated with positive rewards: closeness, family, food, warmth-all the stuff that helps us survive as a helpless infant. From there it is a feedback loop.

ELI5: Our parents smiled at us, we smiled back at them; they loved it. They smiled back at us more! We loved it! We smile back at them more, they loved it even more! ect ect. Fast forward 25 years later, you and I are sitting at an outdoor cafe absolutely losing our minds because A DOG JUST SMILED AT US AND WE LOVED IT.