Fire-walking inspires a heart-to-heart

Fire-walkers' heart rates sync with those of onlooking family and friends during the ritualistic walk across the coals, a PNAS study finds.

Ivana Konvalinka and colleagues fitted participants and spectators with heart monitors at an annual fire-walking ceremony in San Pedro Manrique, Spain, to quantify the that underlies community rituals.

Using a , the researchers determined that changes in fire-walkers' heart rates throughout the ceremony were uniquely synchronized with those of their onlooking family members or close friends, in patterns that differed from non-related onlookers.

The technique distinguishes between the changes in and adrenaline surges that one might experience as a causal spectator from the changes experienced by onlookers who share an emotional bond with the barefoot participant.

The unique patterns, according to the authors, reflect subtle cardiac activity associated with the individuals' shared , and demonstrate that emotionally linked individuals can also be linked in physiological ways.

The investigation, the authors propose, demonstrates a new method for quantifying the physiology of shared experience that can occur during social rituals.

More information: "Synchronized arousal between performers and related spectators in a fire-walking ritual," by Ivana Konvalinka et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2011).

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Friendships start better with a smile

date 11 hours ago

If you want to strike up a new relationship, simply smile. It works because people are much more attuned to positive emotions when forming new bonds than they are to negative ones such as anger, contempt or ...

Babies can think before they can speak

date 11 hours ago

Two pennies can be considered the same—both are pennies, just as two elephants can be considered the same, as both are elephants. Despite the vast difference between pennies and elephants, we easily notice ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.