Prosocial correlates of transformative experiences at secular multi-day mass gatherings

Daniel A. Yudkin, Annayah Prosser, S. Megan Heller, Kateri McCrae, Aleksandr Chakroff, Molly Crockett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Humans have long sought experiences that transcend or change their sense of self. By weakening boundaries between the self and others, such transformative experiences may lead to enduring changes in moral orientation. Here we investigated the psychological nature and prosocial correlates of transformative experiences by studying participants before (n = 600), during (n = 1217), 0–4 weeks after (n = 1866), and 6 months after (n = 710) they attended a variety of secular, multi-day mass gatherings in the US and UK. Observations at 6 field studies and 22 online followup studies spanning 5 years showed that self-reported transformative experiences at mass gatherings were common, increased over time, and were characterized by feelings of universal connectedness and new perceptions of others. Participants’ circle of moral regard expanded with every passing day onsite—an effect partially mediated by transformative experience and feelings of universal connectedness. Generosity was remarkably high across sites but did not change over time. Immediately and 6 months following event attendance, self-reported transformative experience persisted and predicted both generosity (directly) and moral expansion (indirectly). These findings highlight the prosocial qualities of transformative experiences at secular mass gatherings and suggest such experiences may be associated with lasting changes in moral orientation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2600
JournalNature Communications
Volume13
Issue number1
Early online date27 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank BRC Census Lab, Burning Man Organization, the Do Lab, the Crockett Lab, Maher Abdel-Sattar, Valerie Avalos, Helen Bagnall, Dominic Beaulieu-Prevost, Erie Boorman, Kathleen Bryson, Fiery Cushman, Sebastian Deri, Yarrow Dunham, Ross Folkard, Cabe Franklin, Stacy Hackner, Aimie Hope, Kate Hyslop, Katie Joyce, Tobias Kalenscher, Joshua Keay, Vani Kilakkathi, Enoch Lambert, Ashley Lee, Dana Lilienthal Devaul, Theo Maasters-Waage, Tim Muller, David Newman, Cecilia Nunez, L.A. Paul, Matt Plaia, Kelly Peters, Heather Rivers, Judy Saunders, Alexandra Sofrienew, Christopher Timmermann Slater, Daveed Walzer, Caroline Webb, James Whittington, and Kate Wolfe for their research assistance and access to event populations. This research was supported through a grant from the Experience Project from the John Templeton Foundation (ID #49683). The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank BRC Census Lab, Burning Man Organization, the Do Lab, the Crockett Lab, Maher Abdel-Sattar, Valerie Avalos, Helen Bagnall, Dominic Beaulieu-Prevost, Erie Boorman, Kathleen Bryson, Fiery Cushman, Sebastian Deri, Yarrow Dunham, Ross Folkard, Cabe Franklin, Stacy Hackner, Aimie Hope, Kate Hyslop, Katie Joyce, Tobias Kalenscher, Joshua Keay, Vani Kilakkathi, Enoch Lambert, Ashley Lee, Dana Lilienthal Devaul, Theo Maasters-Waage, Tim Muller, David Newman, Cecilia Nunez, L.A. Paul, Matt Plaia, Kelly Peters, Heather Rivers, Judy Saunders, Alexandra Sofrienew, Christopher Timmermann Slater, Daveed Walzer, Caroline Webb, James Whittington, and Kate Wolfe for their research assistance and access to event populations. This research was supported through a grant from the Experience Project from the John Templeton Foundation (ID #49683). The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy

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