Collective Effervescence Explains Why You Love Being Part Of A Crowd

Brilliance | Dec. 13, 2017

Think back to the euphoric moments you've experienced in your life. Did many of them involve a crowd? Maybe you recall dancing into the wee morning hours at a music festival, celebrating your favorite sports team's World Series win (go Cubs!), attending Comic-Con for the very first time, or marching for a cause you support alongside millions of passionate individuals. These moments might be so special to us because they fulfill our human need for interconnection and belonging.

Lose Yourself In The Music

The joyful intoxication you feel during a shared experience was coined "collective effervescence" by French sociologist Émile Durkheim in his 1912 book, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Durkheim's research not only relates to these euphoric moments, but also to our inclination towards spiritual groups, or even cults. These types of environments often create an out-of-body, extraordinary feeling within the group.

As SUNY Buffalo psychologist Shira Gabriel elaborates to New York Magazine's The Science of Us, collective effervescence can even serve to unite people during unfortunate circumstances. (Maybe that's why people stick with Chicago even after a brutal winter.) Gabriel created the Tendency for Effervescent Assembly Measure, or TEAM scale, and had volunteers rate statements like: "Having giant blizzards or other events that close down a city or area are bad, but the feeling of connection to neighbors and even other strangers going through the same thing almost makes them worth it." Subjects with a high TEAM score experienced higher feelings of social connectedness.

We're All In This Together

Are you a die-hard Harry Potter or Game of Thrones fan? Gabriel extends this notion of collective effervescence to fictional characters and communities in something called the collective-assimilation hypothesis. Fans of these intricate mythical worlds tend to feel a sense of belongingness, positive mood, and increased life satisfaction. Pretty powerful stuff. Whether you're one to lose yourself in the music or Hogwarts, you've likely experienced several forms of collective effervescence through your lifetime. And every time you do, science says you're better for it.

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