Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Contagious Behaviour

Contagious Behaviour

When Karen and I led ghost tours through the North Kapunda Hotel, we set up the tour to be an experience for our guests, not just "another tour".
The idea was to slowly build anticipation for the finale of the tour, The Hallway to Hell. We did this by starting slowly with the history of the town, then some ghost stories, a short video from Haunting Australia, then a walk around the town telling ghost stories.

We were priming our audience intentionally (and sometimes unintentionally), getting them hyped for their experience and for the finale. We wanted everyone to have a good time, get value for money, learn some history about Kapunda and hopefully see a ghost, or at least have some kind of “Personal Experience”.

More often than not, people would come away with at least one personal experience, or an experience they personally attributed to the paranormal.

What we noticed during our two years as tour guides was that the smaller the group, the less likely a “paranormal experience” was to happen. The tour didn’t change, we delivered our information with the same passion and high standards we set for ourselves each week, but for some reason the fewer in the tour group, the less “paranormal activity” felt on the tour.

I now believe what we were experiencing was a form of contagious behaviour. Perhaps this explanation via anomalistic psychology accounts for the higher number of anomalies during tours, or public “ghost hunt” events that are actually personal experiences and NOT genuinely “paranormal” in origin?

What is contagious behaviour?

Contagious behaviour is a type of social influence. The most common form is yawning. See someone else yawn, and more often than not, you will do the same, some of you may even be yawning as you read the word 'yawn' or think about someone else yawning!

Other contagious behaviours can include: smiling, laughing, rudeness, happiness, shivering, fear, anxiety and even risk-taking!

Contagious behaviour is seen within the demographics of protests quite often, when one person begins to punch/kick/ or struggle against authority, their behaviour can lead to others doing the same, and before you know it, you have a riot on your hands!

 In a situation like a ghost tour it is a little bit different. As the person leading the tour, you are seen as an authority on the subject, so when, as a paranormal investigator,  you tell your own ghost stories, it adds credibility to the experience. When you speak about others experiences, and paranormal events that have happened on previous tours, you begin to prime the audience for their own paranormal experience.

 In some guests, you're installing fear, or bringing out subconscious fears. That fear is contagious, and the people around that person will begin to react to it, some will challenge the fear, (the fighters), others will embrace it and become fearful as well (the flee-ers) – their natural “fight or flight” instinct is working away deep in their subconscious. The more people you have on the tour (especially if they are known to each other), the more this fearful energy travels through the group – and as they are there to feel/see/hear a ghost, and are not aware of the many natural explanations (xenonormal) for sounds, smells, etc,  more often than not, they will come away with a ghost story or experience…

…This of course lends to the next tour, as they go tell their friends about their ghostly experience, so the friend is pre-primed before they’ve even done the tour!
 It also adds to the mystique of the location, and to the spreading of urban legend…and so, what was once just another pub like any other, becomes a legendary haunted location with portals to the ghost realm!

So, next time you are on a ghost tour, have a look around at the people you are with, and see who is scared the most, then watch to see if those around them begin to get frightened too.

Thanks for reading – want to comment or ask a question, do so in the box below, or visit the Haunts of Adelaide on Facebook and find this post.


Ogunlade, J. O. (1979). Personality characteristics related to susceptibility to behavioral contagion. Social Behavior and Personality: an International Journal, 7(2), 205.
Holt N & Simmonds-Moore C & Luke D & French C, 2012, Anomalistic Psychology (Palgrave Insights in Psychology). Palgrave Macmillan
Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, David Luke, Christopher French. (2012). Anomalistic Psychology (Palgrave Insights in Psychology). Palgrave Macmillan