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How attending festivals can make us better humans

Jan 17th 2024

three friends posing with their arms in the air at a music festival

We have even more reason to book those festival tickets! A study from Yale University revealed that attending music festivals can have a lasting impact on how we view ourselves and others - and can make us more willing to extend a helping hand to strangers for a solid six months after the event.

While extensive research has been done on the uplifting psychological effects of religious gatherings and pilgrimages - creating intense social bonds and unity - less attention has been given to secular festivals.

A huge crowd infront a stage at a music festival

Transformative experiences

The team of psychologists from Yale University set out to see if secular gatherings might serve a more profound purpose. Their investigation included in-person field studies, engaging over 1,200 attendees of large multi-day gatherings in the US and UK.

63% of festival goers who took part in the study reported experiencing a ‘transformative journey’.

Those reporting transformative experiences not only felt a heightened connection with all of humanity but also demonstrated a greater willingness to lend a hand to distant strangers.

A festival-goer with the words 'you are loved' in black on the back of their white tshirt

Dr. Daniel Yudkin, an author of the research paper, noted:

“We’ve long known that festivals, pilgrimages, and ceremonies make people feel more bonded with their own group. Here we show that experiences at secular mass gatherings also have the potential to expand the boundaries of moral concern beyond one’s own group.”

The team delved into people's subjective experiences and social behaviour at mass gatherings, including the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert, as well as the UK’s Burning Nest and Latitude festivals, and California’s Lightning in a Bottle and Dirty Bird gatherings.

Participants were asked about their experiences and their willingness to share resources with both friends and strangers.

In total, 63.2% of respondents indicated undergoing a ‘transformative journey’ that left lasting change. Even the sceptics among them were positively impacted - many participants did not expect or seek any kind of transformation.

A view from the crowd of a stage at a music festival. Large orange and green balls are being bounced around by the crowd.

Long-lasting loveliness

Following up with original attendees and interviewing an additional 2,000 people who had attended the events but were not initially interviewed, the researchers discovered that transformative experiences and their prosocial effects endured for at least six months.

The study highlights the power of shared experiences in fostering empathy and understanding. In the whirlwind of a festival, surrounded by music, art, and the shared human experience, our usual social barriers are lowered.

This shared journey brings a sense of community and unity that spills over into real-world actions, inspiring us to extend our care and concern beyond our own circles.

Molly Crockett, Associate Professor of Psychology at Yale, added:

“Transformative experiences help people transcend the borders of the self and connect with all of humanity.”

So, when you’re booking those tickets for festival season, remember, you might be taking a step towards a more connected, more generous, and ultimately, more human future.

The study was published in the Nature Communications journal.


Humanitix is the world’s first humane ticketing platform that donates 100% of profits from booking fees to children’s charities. Backed by Google.org and the Atlassian Foundation, Humanitix is converting the USD $3.7bn in annual global booking fees into social impact projects that give disadvantaged kids greater access to education, healthcare and a fair go in life.

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