Pain, Identity and Pleasure in Mass Gatherings
Ferris, L. J. (University of Queensland), Bastian, B. (University of Melbourne), Jetten, J. (University of Queensland), Cruwys, T. (Australian National University)
Shared pain promotes social bonding, but there are few studies on pleasure in painful collective contexts. In 2 field studies, we aimed to examine pain and pleasure as predictors of social connection at in vivo mass gatherings, and to explore what other identity functions these mixed-valence mass gatherings may serve. In Study 1 (N = 194), we collected pre- and post-event measures of pain, pleasure, social identification, and self-revelation from participants in a mass cold-water swim. In Study 2 (N = 149), we repeated the method at a second cold swim event, and included attendees of a dysphoric art experience (N = 57) as a quasi-experimental comparison. Across both studies, participants showed stronger identification with other attendees following the event than before, and more firmly endorsed that their participation revealed something about ‘who I am’. In Study 1, pain was associated with positive change in self-revelation only when pleasure was high, which in turn predicted positive change in social identification over the course of the event. In Study 2, pain and pleasure were again associated with positive change in self-revelation. These studies provide a grounding for future research on the identity functions shared mixed-valence experiences can provide.
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