Human See, Human Feel

Jackson Chavarria is a manager at Cross Roads Escape Games, has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and is working on his Master’s degree. Here is his take on interesting things he sees in our escape rooms through his psychology perspective.

You may have come across some people in your life who seem to be able to assess a room’s “energy” or “vibe” within minutes or even seconds. These people can somehow tell if it’s a positive or negative type of energy and conclude whether it’s a place they want to stay in long. If you have witnessed one of your friends or family, or you have done this, you may chalk it up to a certain kind of luck or superstition, as there often isn’t much evidence to come to such a conclusion. But what if there is legitimate reasoning behind this backed by science?

Mirror neurons: a recent scientific discovery in the early 1990s found in a specific group of primates called macaques. As luck would have it, we also have mirror neurons. They allow us to empathize with other humans, even if we aren’t directly involved. The most common example is when people yawn, those nearby may immediately feel the need to yawn. Often, we allow this need to carry out, and we yawn as well. Seeing someone get hit in a sensitive area could make you say “ooh” in pain, despite us experiencing no harm. When we see or hear someone laughing, we want to join in with the laughter, despite us sometimes not knowing what’s funny. This is where “infectious laughter” comes from, so blame your mirror neurons!

There is still research on what species may have them apart from macaques and humans, along with the purpose of why they exist. The working theory is that those mirror neurons allow for an easier connection to others, as we are a community-based species. But it doesn’t stop with actions or behaviors; it also applies to emotions. When we see someone holding back tears, we feel that sadness, and it takes an intentional effort not to cry in those moments. We empathize with those around us unconsciously daily throughout our lives, whether it be a kind smile from a stranger, and we can’t help but smile back, or our friend is angry because their coworker Sharleen was rude to them that day, and we also get mad at Sharleen.

Knowing about mirror neurons is so crucial for escape rooms because, as the name implies, we reflect what we see. This is why it’s imperative that you bring positive emotions to the group. Escape rooms are filled with complex puzzles and tasks that can invoke negative emotions like anxiety and frustration. Those negative feelings can throw off a group dynamic and cause further unnecessary stress in an already stressful situation.

Being a beacon of positive emotion can be the difference between successful and unsuccessful groups.

At the top of this blog, I mentioned that some people could sense a room’s energy. Very little research (if any) goes along with this, but here’s what I’ve gathered thus far: these people usually exhibit symptoms of ADHD and have keen observation skills. My working theory is that these people assess the people in the room, look for disgruntled faces, uncomfortable body language, and other negative signs, and then make their deductions. More research must be done regarding the accuracy of these suppositions. In the meantime, be the positivity you aspire to see in the world because it just might pass on to those you come across!