First off, I know next to nothing about cognitive sciences, but I experienced something today that got me curious. So please forgive me for maybe not being able to express my questions adequately.

Today I was driving around with a friend of mine quite late when we passed someone in the bike lane who turned out to be a guy and a girl (probably around my age. I'm 24.) who had crashed while riding a bike down a hill, with her sitting on the handle bar. (Her shoe was completely entangled in the spokes of the front wheel.) The guy was lying unconsciously on the ground, just beside the bike, bleeding heavily from the head, gasping for air, while she was standing next to him with blood all over her face in some state of shock. My friend called 911 and ran off to find a street sign for them to locate us.

(I am trying to shorten this story a bit, but I am still quite shaken by the experience, so I am having a hard time extracting the parts that are relevant to my questions.)

Some other people came by in a car and got out to help, while the guy - totally unresponsive - managed to stand up. They got him to sit down against a fence, still unable to communicate. At some point we realized that they did not speak Danish (we're in Denmark). While the other passersby tried to care for the guy, I got the girl's shoe out of the wheel, because I noticed she was walking around with no shoes and it's quite cold. When I tried to give them to her, she just hugged me. She just hugged me really tight, with her face against my chest, shaking and hyperventilating.

When the police and an ambulance arrived, we were still standing about 5 meters from the guy, still hugging, while everyone else was helping the guy. At this point, she spoke a full sentence for the first time, asking "Is he okay?". I told her "I think so." and I think at this point she realized what had happened, because it made her cry audibly for the first time during the episode. I imagine she could be blaming herself for the accident. If her foot hadn't gotten in the wheel, they wouldn't have crashed. I asked her if she wanted to go to the ambulance, she said yes and I walked her to it.

Fast forward half an hour. We drove off after talking to the police, and while sitting in the car still shaking, I noticed a strange feeling accompanying the shock of the experience. I felt, and still am feeling (it's about 3 hours ago now) some kind of strange bond with these people. I have never been involved in an accident like that before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I am left with - first of all - a feeling of wanting to meet them again. Not only to see if the guy is all right, but actually, genuinely wanting to get to know them. Second of all, something about the girl hugging me like that, really affected me. It's almost as if I'm experiencing something kind of similar to the feeling of being about to fall in love with someone. Some kind of unexplainable connection. I am quite aware that what I am experiencing only resembles the felling of being in love, and how irrational this is, hence my wondering.

  • Firstly: her behavior during the incident. What cognitive processes could cause her to seek this kind of comfort in a stranger, while her friend is sitting 5 meters from her, bleeding heavily from the head. It seems like a peculiar reaction to me.

  • Secondly: what cognitive processes could cause me to feel this strange one-sided bond with them? Especially the girl. Why would someone feel like they're falling in love with a person they don't know, and have only ever spoken a couple of words to, after such an incident?

    What effect does that kind of traumatic event have on the forming of emotional bonds between people, during the event?

I would love to know more about this, so if you know of any studies or literature of any kind, please let me know.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting question, I hope that you can find satisfactory answers for yourself. People evolved living in groups of others that they knew well, so I think that emotional responses to extreme trauma (whether as the recipient or a viewer) are to seek comfort and offer it. Whenever we get very close to someone for whatever reason, it is possible that the barriers of ego will let down and we will feel a close relation to them. This is simple and automatic. I see nothing surprising or that needs much explanation, but your interest will guide you to something you find compelling. $\endgroup$ – user9634 May 19 '16 at 22:57