[Y]ou’re choosing between two apartments. They are identical with one exception: you happen to know that the former tenant in one of the apartments was an extremely happy, joyful person. Would you be more inclined to choose that apartment, based on an expectation that you might experience some lingering good feelings?
Your answers reflect how much you believe in “emotional residue,” which is the idea that emotions can hang around a physical environment, long after their owners have left. New research suggests that at a gut level, most of us believe that emotional residue exists. However, the culture we’ve grown up in determines the extent to which we consciously and openly endorse those beliefs.
He had participants from both countries read scenarios about David, a college freshman who moves into a new dorm room. The previous student who lived in the room was described as having spent a lot of time there feeling either very happy or depressed. Savani asked his participants to predict how David would feel a couple of weeks after living in his new room. Both Indians and Americans predicted that David would feel similarly to the student who had lived there before. In other words, he’d feel happy if the previous student had been happy and sad if the previous student had been sad.
There were two other trials, detailed in the Scientific American post and the original study report, which gave similar results: People believe, even subconsciously, that how a person feels will leave lingering emotional markers in a room or building. So is that the case or is this, in fact, a bunch of nonsense?
The question of whether emotional residue actually exists remains to be answered, but intriguing new research suggests that it may have biological underpinnings. A well-publicized study from earlier this year demonstrated that human tears emit a chemical that other people detect and respond to. Specifically, women’s tears were shown to reduce testosterone and sexual arousal in men. Research by Wen Zhou and Denise Chen of Rice University have demonstrated that human sweat glands emit distinct chemicals when people experience different emotions. In addition, they showed evidence that other people can sense those chemicals at a later point in time. Taken together, these new findings suggest that our intuitive beliefs in emotional residue may be more than just superstition.
What's your opinion here, Neatorama? Are bad vibes just superstition or do you think we'll find a scientific basis for our wariness of "sad" or "happy" places?
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