What is awe? The feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world, leading to a combination of fear and wonder. The most famous example is Neil Armstrong looking back at Earth for the first time, experiencing an overwhelming feeling of insignificance.
Turns out, awe has a range of favorable effects on us.
- A research conducted among children tested their social behavior after watching either one of three video clips (provoking joy, awe, or a neutral clip). Results showed that the group which were shown awe-inducing clips were more likely to spend time on a helpful task, as well as donating their snacks to refugees. The researchers say that awe makes us feel small, which helps shift our attention outward.
- A five-experiment study by researchers across the United States and Canada found that inducing awe in a lab setting, through mindful recollection of past experiences of awe, caused participants to become more generous and prosocial in economic games, and more concerned about ethical values.
- “The more you feel awe, the more it becomes omnipresent. That runs counter to an assumption about human pleasure — that the more we eat ice cream, the less we like it. Awe is different. But you have to put the work in.” – Dacher Keltner (author of the book ‘Awe’).
All in all, more reason to stop putting off that mountain trip, music festival, or museum visit.