Millions of people will be seeking totality for Monday's solar eclipse. Some warn of a "zombie apocalypse," as hordes strain the resources of towns more accustomed to hosting pancake breakfasts than Coachella-size events.
Don't worry. Here are three reasons human-behavior researchers say that you made the right decision to experience the eclipse in a crowd — even if the portable toilets overflow.
Why is it that excitement can feel so much more intense when we're in a group with others feeling the same emotion? Fergus Neville, a social psychologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, believes this results from seeing our emotions reflected in the faces of others, which validates our own experience and amplifies the intensity of our feelings.
Using surveys and heart-rate measures, he has measured this magnification process.
"I think that you can have the experience with small groups, but that the more people you see in your group who are sharing your experience, then the stronger the validation effect and thus the stronger the experience," he said in an email.
Connecting With Strangers
Why is it much easier to connect with strangers in some crowds than others? The critical ingredient, researchers say, is a sense of shared social identity. That's something that is virtually guaranteed in a field full of people in matching eclipse glasses.
"Emotional intimacy with strangers" is something relished by all kinds people, even those who may not seem as if they are looking for it, Neville has found. Soccer fans, for example, cite this as one of the primary benefits of watching in a group.
It's Like Nothing Else
Even though there's little research that shows how eclipses affect humans, that's not to say they don't, said Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown School of Medicine: "The adrenaline rush you get must be similar to parasailing or coming down in a parachute."
And it's that feeling, amplified by the enthusiasm of strangers, that is inspiring him to travel to a hub of clogged wireless networks to experience totality yet again.