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

Contributors:
  1. Bernard Rimé

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Description: After collective traumas like natural disasters and terrorist attacks, members of concerned communities experience intense emotions and talk profusely about them. While these exchanges resemble simple emotional venting, Durkheim’s theory of emotional effervescence postulates that these collective emotions lead to higher levels of solidarity. We present the first large-scale test of this theory through the longitudinal analysis of digital traces captured in Twitter after the Paris terrorist attacks of November, 2015. We find a collective negative emotional response followed by a marked increase in the use of lexical indicators related to social resilience, in particular social processes, prosocial behavior, and shared values. These lexical indicators were higher in the months following the attacks for the individuals who participated to a higher degree in the collective emotion. Together, our findings support the conclusion that collective traumas can fuel collective emotions that coexist with social resilience processes, as described by Durkheim.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International

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