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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Collective Emotions and Social Resilience in the Digital Traces After a Terrorist Attack

David Garcia, Bernard Rimé
Psychological Science 2019 March 13, : 956797619831964
30865565
After collective traumas such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks, members of concerned communities experience intense emotions and talk profusely about them. Although these exchanges resemble simple emotional venting, Durkheim's theory of collective effervescence postulates that these collective emotions lead to higher levels of solidarity in the affected community. We present the first large-scale test of this theory through the analysis of digital traces of 62,114 Twitter users after the Paris terrorist attacks of November 2015. We found a collective negative emotional response followed by a marked long-term increase in the use of lexical indicators related to solidarity. Expressions of social processes, prosocial behavior, and positive affect were higher in the months after the attacks for the individuals who participated to a higher degree in the collective emotion. Our findings support the conclusion that collective emotions after a disaster are associated with higher solidarity, revealing the social resilience of a community.

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