Later on this year a fascinating new study is set to be published in Psychological Science which shows how exposure to awe has a powerfully beneficial effect on your life. What qualifies as “awe”? The sharpest definition describes awe as a “feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder” and comes from the old Norse word for “terror.” In a recent article in Business Insider, Gus Lubin sat down with author Melanie Rudd of Stanford University, where Rudd elaborates that awe not only expands people’s perceptions of time, it also enhances well-being and causes people to behave more altruistically and less materialistically:
The methods that were the most effective at stimulating awe were those that presented participants with a “new” awe experience (i.e., having participants watch the awe-eliciting commercial). Remembering a past awe-eliciting experience and reading about an imaginary awe-eliciting experience (i.e., the short story) also elicited awe, but relatively less compared to when participants experienced a “fresh” and “real” awe experience.
Rudd also explains how we can actively stimulate awe in order to reap its benefits in our daily lives. First, the experience must elicit “perceptual vastness” in the sense that you need to feel as if you’ve come across something that is vast in size, scope, complexity, etc. And the second thing needed for a truly awesome experience is your brain being compelled to “accomodate” the experience (i.e. you consciously or unconsciously revise or update your mental structures and the way you interpret/see the world around you in order to understand what you’ve encountered). Rudd notes that the places where these encounters with awe are most likely to occur are: an experience in nature, exposure to art and music, and observing the accomplishments of others. Social interactions and personal accomplishments have a much lesser ability to elicit awe. You can read the entire article at Business Insider. And to experience some awe on your personal computer, check out one of Jason Silva’s videos below. You can see all of Jason’s extraordinary videos at ThisIsJasonSilva.com, and be sure to visit Jason Silva on FEELguide. Illustration courtesy of Tanya Johnston.