Emotional contagion is the phenomenon of emotions and feelings spreading from one person to another (or among a group of people), often by very basic and simple nonverbal mechanisms such as tears, smiles and other facial expressions. This happens because human beings are inescapably social creatures. We have evolved in close social groups, and emotional closeness is the fundamental basis of human communication and cognition. Knowing and being connected to what is happening to and with the people around you can quite literally be a life or death matter. Scientists and researchers are beginning to work out the mechanisms of emotional contagion, but right now we know more about the expressions of emotion that trigger emotional contagion than the cognitive mechanisms involved in human empathy. One particularly interesting related area of study is “mirror neurons,” which imply a direct neurological connection between a person’s thoughts and feelings and the thoughts, feelings and actions of those they observe.