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Masanori Kimura, Ikuo Daibo, Masao Yogo

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Emotional contagion was examined from the perspective of interpersonal relationships. Using a vignette paradigm, 156 Japanese undergraduates (108 females and 48 males) assumed either a friend, acquaintance, senior, or junior as their partner. Their emotional expression and experience were measured when their assumed partner told them of intensely positive episodes (e.g., the long-sought passing of a certification examination) and intensely negative episodes (e.g., the death of their mother). Emotional responses were significantly stronger in the friend, senior, and junior conditions than in the acquaintance condition for both positive and negative episodes, suggesting the degree of intimacy in the interpersonal relationship influenced emotional contagion. Emotional responses were also stronger in the junior condition than in the senior condition, suggesting that social power in interpersonal relationships influenced emotional contagion. Moreover, sad expressions resulting from partners' disclosures did not differ across conditions, reflecting the display rule of negative emotions in Japan. These results indicate that interpersonal relationships need to be taken into account in the model of emotional contagion.