Quantifying collective effervescence: Heart-rate dynamics at a fire-walking ritual

Dimitris Xygalatas, Ivana Konvalinka, Joseph Bulbulia, Andreas Roepstorff

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Collective rituals are ubiquitous and resilient features of all known human cultures. They are also functionally opaque, costly, and sometimes dangerous. Social scientists have speculated that collective rituals generate benefits in excess of their costs by reinforcing social bonding and group solidarity, yet quantitative evidence for these conjectures is scarce. Our recent study measured the physiological effects of a highly arousing Spanish fire-walking ritual, revealing shared patterns in heart-rate dynamics between participants and related spectators. We briefly describe our results, and consider their implications.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCommunicative & Integrative Biology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)735-738
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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