The Emotional Contagion Scale


Emotional contagion describes a certain sensitivity to the emotions of others, and induces the individual to unintentionally ‘catch’ those emotions from mere exposure to others’ behaviour. The EC Scale provides a measure of emotional arousal, and the congruence of emotional stimulus and response. It represents an ideal measure to employ when the researcher attempts to use emotional expression as the independent variable.


Psychometric evaluation of the EC Scale is discussed in Doherty (1997).

Author of Tool:

R. William Doherty

Key references:

Doherty, R. W. (1997). The Emotional contagion scale: A measure of individual differences. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 21, pp. 131-154.

Primary use / Purpose:

The Emotional Contagion Scale is a 15-item index that aims to measure individual differences in susceptibility to catching the emotions of other individuals. It examines mimetic tendency to five basic emotions (love, happiness, fear, anger, and sadness). The EC Scale is intended for use across a wide range of settings, samples, and studies. It can be quickly administered and scored within five minutes.

The Emotional Contagion Scale

This is a scale that measures a variety of feelings and behaviors in various situa­tions. There are no right or wrong answers, so try very hard to be completely honest in your answers. Results are completely confidential. Read each question and indi­cate the answer which best applies to you. Please answer each question very care­fully. Thank you.

Use the following key:

  • Always = Always true for me.
  • Often =  Often true for me.
  • Usually = Usually true for me.
  • Rarely =  Rarely true for me.
  • Never =  Never true for me.
  1. If someone I’m talking with begins to cry, I get teary-eyed.
  2. Being with a happy person picks me up when I’m feeling down.
  3. When someone smiles warmly at me, I smile back and feel warm inside.
  4. I get filled with sorrow when people talk about the death of their loved ones.
  5. I clench my jaws and my shoulders get tight when I see the angry faces on the news.
  6. When I look into the eyes of the one I love, my mind is filled with thoughts of romance.
  7. It irritates me to be around angry people.
  8. Watching the fearful faces of victims on the news makes me try to imagine how they might be feeling.
  9. I melt when the one I love holds me close.
  10. I tense when overhearing an angry quarrel.
  11. Being around happy people fills my mind with happy thoughts.
  12. I sense my body responding when the one I love touches me.
  13. I notice myself getting tense when I’m around people who are stressed out.
  14. I cry at sad movies.
  15. Listening to the shrill screams of a terrified child in a dentist’s waiting room makes me feel nervous.

Note: The higher the score, the more susceptible to emotional contagion a person would be said to be.  Happiness items = 2, 3, & 11.  Love items = 6, 9, & 12.  Fear items = 8, 13, & 15.  Anger items = 5, 7, & 10.  Sadness items = 1, 4, & 14.  Total score = all items.