Institut Jean Nicod

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Soutenance de thèse : Guillaume Dezecache (IJN)

Soutenance de Thèse

Mardi 17 décembre 2013 à 10h 

Studies on emotional propagation in humans: the cases of fear and joy
Guillaume Dezecache

Lieu : Salle Dussane - Ecole Normale Supérieure - 45 rue d'Ulm - 75005 Paris


Membres du jury :
Pr. Natalie SEBANZ (reviewer)
Dr. Daniel HAUN (reviewer)
Pr. Robin DUNBAR (reviewer)
Dr. Mathias PESSIGLIONE (reviewer)
Pr. Dan SPERBER (reviewer)
Dr. Didier BAZALGETTE (reviewer)
Dr. Pierre JACOB (supervisor)
Dr. Julie GREZES (supervisor)

Résumé :
Crowd psychologists of the 19th and 20th centuries have left us with the idea that emotions are so contagious that they can cause large groups of individuals to rapidly and spontaneously converge on an emotional level. Good illustrations of this claim include situations of crowd panic where large movements of escape are thought to emerge through local interactions, and without any centralized coordination. Our studies sought to investigate the propagation of two allegedly contagious emotions, i.e., fear and joy. This thesis presents two theoretical and two empirical studies that have investigated, at two different levels of analysis, the phenomenon of emotional propagation of fear and joy: firstly, at a proximal level of analysis (the how-question), I discuss the potential mechanisms underlying the transmission of these emotions in crowds, and the extent to which emotional transmission can be considered analogous to a contagion process. Secondly, at an evolutionary/ultimate level of analysis (the why-question), I ask why crowd members seem to be so inclined to share their emotional experience of fear and joy with others. I present a study showing that the transmission of fear might be facilitated by a tendency to modulate one’s involuntary fearful facial reactions according to the informational demands of conspecifics, suggesting that the biological function of spontaneous fearful reactions might be communication of survival-value information to others. Finally, I discuss the implications of these studies for the broader understanding of emotional crowd behavior.