[FOUNTAIN]Why can’t we see danger as it looms?When you are around people who are joyful, you become joyful. When you are around people who are anxious, you become anxious yourself for no reason.
In evolutionary psychology, which sees human beings’ feelings as a result of evolution, this is known as “emotional contagion.” It means that a person’s emotions are not only affected by personal psychological situations but also social factors.
Psychologists proved this through experiments. The most famous of these was conducted by the Swedish psychologist Ulf Dimberg. In the early 1980s, he studied the movement of facial muscles after showing the subjects pictures of angry and smiling people. The result was that the subjects were soon making faces similar to the ones that they had been shown.
There are reasons for this emotional contagion. Among the various theories, the most interesting one sees anxiety contagion as a survival skill that has developed through evolution. In primitive societies, the first person to spot danger spread anxiety to the society’s members, putting a mass early-warning system in action. In this way, a society had a higher chance of avoiding danger.
So it can be said that emotional contagion is a way to make a society less vulnerable to danger. However, this theory is hard to apply in the case of South Koreans’ reactions to the North Korea nuclear crisis issue.
The tension in international society is rising, as is the insecurity that nearby countries are feeling. But the mood within South Korea is quite different. Foreign press correspondents shake their heads, saying it’s hard to believe how calm South Koreans are. The difference in attitudes within South Korea and outside the country is huge.
Why aren’t South Koreans anxious even when North Korea is threatening to develop nuclear weapons? Is it because they believe that the North isn’t a threat, because they are blood brothers? Or is it because their daily lives are so harsh that they don’t have time to worry about such problems?
Whatever the reason, it is disconcerting to see that our early-warning system is becoming dull.
by Nam Yoon-ho
The writer is the leader of the family news team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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