Abstract Emotion plays an important role in the decision-making of individuals in some emergency situations. The contagion of emotion may induce either normal or abnormal consolidated crowd behavior. This paper aims to simulate the dynamics of emotional contagion among crowds by modifying the epidemiological SIR model to a cellular automaton approach. This new cellular automaton model, entitled the “CA–SIRS model”, captures the dynamic process ‘susceptible–infected–recovered–susceptible’, which is based on SIRS contagion in epidemiological theory. Moreover, in this new model, the process is integrated with individual movement. The simulation results of this model show that multiple waves and dynamical stability around a mean value will appear during emotion spreading. It was found that the proportion of initial infected individuals had little influence on the final stable proportion of infected population in a given system, and that infection frequency increased with an increase in the average crowd density. Our results further suggest that individual movement accelerates the spread speed of emotion and increases the stable proportion of infected population. Furthermore, decreasing the duration of an infection and the probability of reinfection can markedly reduce the number of infected individuals. It is hoped that this study will be helpful in crowd management and evacuation organization.