Why we’re fascinated by fireworks (Ph.D. edition)

File under: Obvious.

Last week, the Kansas State University media relations department sent out a press release saying that a couple of psychology professors had taken a “look at some reasons behind the fascination with fireworks.” We expected some deep insights into the human psyche. What we got instead:

Holidays, weddings and birthdays are occasions that tend to bring out the most traditional side of people, said Richard Harris, K-State professor of psychology.

“This is particularly true if people have strong memories of celebrating a holiday in a particular way in their childhood,” Harris said. “People are strongly drawn to recreate that ‘safe’ childhood holiday activity. People who might never seek out a fireworks display other times might find that important to do on Independence Day. People who remember enjoying setting off fireworks themselves as children will want to do that as adults or at least help their kids do it, and as such, perpetuate those memories.”

If someone has no such memories, they won’t respond that way, Harris said.

Associations with childhood memories — that’s it? Does Harris actually study this stuff? Naw, he said when we called to ask him.

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