Drake Baer in New York Magazine:
Let’s say you recently marched with 3.2 million people, celebrated a 108-year wait for a World Series, or raved deep into the night. The contagious euphoria you felt has a name: “collective effervescence,” coined a century ago by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim. It’s that glowy, giddy feeling where your sense of self slackens, yielding to a connection with your fellow, synchronized humans.
In an instance of sublime timing, I caught SUNY Buffalo psychologist Shira Gabriel’s presentation about collective effervescence at the the Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference on Saturday. According to her forthcoming research, these effervescent experiences fill the human need for belonging in a way that most social psychology research — so long preoccupied with couples, families, and small groups — has tended to overlook. It underscores how customs as ancient as pilgrimages and feast days, and modern as protests and pro sports, help people to lead happier, connected, and more personally meaningful lives.
Gabriel, who was initiated into effervescence by following Phish during her grad-school years, said it’s the sort of thing most people experience without ever considering. Think about why people go to concerts, for instance: The sound is loud, the drinks expensive, the people sweaty, and you can hear the same songs at home. “What is so positive about being in the spot where the music is made?” she said in an interview. While you don’t say to yourself that you’re going to the show to fulfill your need for collective effervescence, the need is being met.