Laughter is contagious, yawning is contagious, grief is contagious . . . certain feelings and expressions of said feelings are universal, so they spread more easily. According to new research, add guilt to that short list.
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people can be made to feel guilty, even through flimsy associated with someone who ought to have felt guilt. In one test, experimenters had people shake hands. Some were told that they’d just shaken hands with a cheater, and those people ended up feeling more guilt than people who were told no such thing.
In another test, university students sat down to take a quick test, and some were told that the person who’d previously sat in their chair had cheated on said test. They didn’t even need to meet the hypothetical cheater—simply being told about it was enough to make them feel guilty.