The Social Dynamics of a Cultural Upheaval: Social Interactions Surrounding September 11, 2001

Matthias R. Mehl, James W. Pennebaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

79 Scopus citations


Using the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR), a new methodology for sampling behavioral data in naturalistic settings, we tracked the social lives of 11 people by recording 30-s snippets of ambient sounds in their environment approximately every 12 min. Participants wore the EAR continuously for 10 days from September 11, 2001. Pre-September 11 baseline data were available for all participants. Analyses of the coded sound information showed that although participants did not change in their overall amount of interactions, they gradually shifted from group conversations to dyadic interactions. Exploratory analyses revealed that a relative increase in dyadic interactions over the first 10 days after September 11 was marginally related to better psychological adjustment at follow-up. The findings have relevance for the understanding of stress and affiliation and normal psychological reactions to emergencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)579-585
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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