Why Should People High Five Each Other More Often at Coachella?

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Nate Jackson
Maurice "Bull" Bullard delivering one up high
A 2010 psychological study based on the mental effects of participating in a high-five helps explain how touch is one of the biological mechanisms that helps us form and sustain intimate bonds which are essential to our survival in groups. In the U.S., the high five is even given its own day-- National High Five Day--which falls on the third Thursday every year in April). The holiday also happens to be today, April 16. If you haven't high fived someone yet, get on it.

A study from a lab at the University of California at Berkeley demonstrates how consistent physical contact predicts which people will shine in competitive environments, or in this case, a festival where it feels like people's job to out-cool each other on a constant basis.

The study, led by research scholar Michael Kraus, psychology student Cassy Huang and social psychologist Dacher, focused on interpersonal contact (ie. high fives, shoulder bumps, hugs, huddles etc.) exchanged among National Basketball Association players during their 2008-2009 season.

When the researchers analyzed what transpired between players during and after their games, they discovered that moments of physical contact indicated more than just bromance or bravado: The amount and the type of non-verbal communication between players was clearly tied to the performance of the group. The more team members bonded via fist bumps and group hugs, the more success they experienced.

When put in context of a festival or a concert, that logic also seems to make a lot of sense. We're all here together in a confined space for the common goal of having a good time. But as software engineer Doron Maman explains in a2013 Ted Talk about the psychology of the high five, sometimes being together isn't enough. "By increasing positive emotions in the other, we can thereby increase their emotions of self-worth," Maman says. "And by making them better, we make ourselves better. In the end, it's all about recognition, appreciation and love."

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Nate Jackson
Contact: Nate Jackson