DePaul University
Aug. 10, 2017

Why all the interest in the solar eclipse? It’s not just a science phenomenon, says DePaul University sociologist

Newswise — CHICAGO — The upcoming total solar eclipse Aug. 21 is creating a buzz across America, in part due to humans wanting to experience events.

“This event is the happy convergence of two big trends — a growing interest in science and the passion for having exciting experiences,” says Roberta Garner, a sociologist at DePaul University.

“Psychologists have known for some time that experiences are more important than possessions for human happiness but sociologists, economists and researchers in marketing have found that the urge to have experiences — and to purchase experiences — has greatly accelerated with the millennials. People don't want to miss out on experiences and events — and social media and the internet are a way of sharing the buzz,” she says.

“The science hook with a solar eclipse keeps children interested in science and nature. Science has become important to many more people than ever before as young people are receiving a better science education, the nation is emphasizing STEM careers, and science controversies are making headlines,” Garner notes.

“And, the great thing about the eclipse is that it fits our ever-shrinking attention span. Totality lasts only a few minutes,” she adds.

Garner is a professor of sociology at DePaul University in Chicago. She teaches in the areas of social movements and political sociology. Her most recent work — “Neoliberal Chicago,” with co-editors Larry Bennett and Euan Hague — is a collection of articles by sociologists, geographers and political scientists on politics, development and inequities in contemporary Chicago. More at