The cold and flu may not be the only things we catch this season; rudeness can easily spread just like a virus. In DNews' latest video, “Being A Jerk May Not Be Your Fault,” host Trace Dominguez explains that behaviors such as rudeness may be as contagious as the common cold because anyone can be a carrier and anyone can start the cycle.

As humans, we are social beings, and since we’re used to living in social groups, emotions and behaviors can be contagious, says DNews. 

Dr. Elaine Hatfield, a preeminent expert on emotional contagions, wrote in the Association for Psychological Science, "If we feel irritated at a client, the client is irritated at us or something else.” For example, doctors are affected by the emotions of their patients, and laughing people cause others to laugh. This is almost in a “monkey-see monkey-do kind of way,” according to Hatfield.

The emotions we "catch" are reflected in our actions. If we’re sitting in a sports bar, we’ll likely pick up the emotions of the fans around us, and sometimes unconsciously mimic them. This applies even if we’re not actual sports fans, says DNews. 

Rudeness can affect us in similar ways. In a 2015 study, participants were shown a video of people being rude, and were then asked to assess a neutral email. Those who had experienced rudeness by watching the video projected rudeness onto their response. Separately, in interviews, people who were treated rudely by the interviewer were rated as rude in future interviews with others. The findings revealed the rudeness lasted a week, growing in complexity.

When someone is rude to us, we pay more attention to rude behavior. A single incident can change how we interpret the world. For example, in the workplace, a person being rude can lead someone else to be rude, which leads to another found of rudeness, causing it to spread like wildfire.  

Rudeness isn't just unpleasant; it can disrupt cognitive functioning and diminish performance and attention, especially at work. When we experience incivility, we tend to either shut down or use up our valuable cognitive assets to make sense of our environment. This process drains our resources for learning because we spend time trying to understand the rude behavior,

Although rudeness doesn't affect everyone in the same way, we can all practice ways to be kinder and more respectful of others, including calling out bad behavior when we see it. The goal is to stop the rudeness cycle before it spreads.