ArticlePDF Available

A Conceptual Clarification of the Experience of Awe: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis



Awe is a concept central in much of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, but it still lacks a consensual scientific meaning. Consequently, this article conceptually clarifies awe for its further use in scientific research and theory, as well as in applications such as psychotherapy. Previous understandings of awe and its changing meaning are discussed in their historical context. Six interviews focused on participants' experiences of and thoughts about awe, contained within Schneider's (200954. Schneider , K. ( 2009 ). Awakening to awe: Personal stories of profound transformation . Lanham , MD : Jason Aronson . View all references) book, Awakening to Awe, were explored using interpretative phenomenological analysis. This analysis revealed ten thematic elements of awe, which were then categorized into three conceptual groups. The results are discussed in the context of previous and possible future research on awe, as well their applied implications.
This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in The Humanistic
Psychologist July 2011 copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:
A Conceptual Clarification of the Experience of Awe:
An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
Edward T. Bonner
Northcentral University
Harris L. Friedman
Northcentral University
Awe is a concept central in much of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, but
it still lacks a consensual scientific meaning. Consequently, this paper conceptually
clarifies awe for its further use in scientific research and theory, as well as in applications
such as psychotherapy. Previous understandings of awe and its changing meaning are
discussed in their historical context. Six interviews focused on participants’ experiences
of and thoughts about awe, contained within Schneider’s (2009) book, Awakening to
Awe, were explored using interpretative phenomenological analysis. This analysis
revealed ten thematic elements of awe, which were then categorized into three conceptual
groups. The results are discussed in the context of previous and possible future research
on awe, as well their applied implications.
Keywords: awe, humanistic, interpretative phenomenological analysis,
Awe is an important concept within both humanistic (e.g., Robbins, 2008) and
transpersonal (e.g., Hartelius, Caplan, & Rardin, 2007) psychology, as well as in related
fields, such as positive psychology (e.g., Gable, & Haidt, 2005) and the psychology of
religion (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003). Awe has even been identified as “the ultimate
humanistic moment” that “deserves serious inquiry, if not a central placeregarding
aesthetics (Konecni, 2005, p. 27), which can be extended to other key humanistic and
transpersonal processes. However awe, like many perplexing concepts, suffers from
considerable ambiguity of meaning, despite its importance. As people struggle to express
in words various deeply meaningful experiences that they find inscrutable (and maybe
even ineffable), awe is often the chosen term employed. It also is very emotionally
evocative, as exemplified by the widespread popularity of the derivative term, awesome,
which suggest it is often felt more than it is cognitively grasped. As a scientific concept,
awe lacks a consensual and precise meaning. We consider the conceptual difficulties
with awe to partially explain the limited amount of empirical research on it, despite its
importance, a lack that many have noted (e.g., Haidt, 2003; Keltner & Haidt, 2003;
Robbins, 2003; Schneider, 2004). One approach to address this gap involves using a
conceptual clarification strategy. Research studies in many fields use this approach to
further understanding of humanistic and transpersonal constructs, such as applied to
humanistic terms like empathy (Kunyk & Olson, 2001) in nursing, organizational justice
in management (Fortin, 2008), and more generally trust (Hupcey, 2002), as well as to
transpersonal terms like mystical experience (Hood, 1975) and self-expansiveness
(Friedman, 1983). Conceptual clarification can be a crucial step toward conducting
further empirical research, whether it leads to qualitatively specifying in words or
quantitatively measuring in numbers a designated concept, while conceptual clarity
enhances both inductive theory construction and deductive theory testing, providing a
strategy applicable to qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods research. Penrod and
Hupcey (2005) discussed the importance of conceptual clarification by delineating
between concepts described in their ordinary, everyday meaning versus in their scientific
meaning (i.e., described in more precise terms that linked together form consistent
theory). They acknowledged that, although the everyday use of concepts may contribute
to scientific understanding, concepts used with imprecise meaning are not adequate for
most scientific purposes. They further argued that, when a scientific concept differs from
its everyday usage, this constitutes an inconsistency requiring further conceptual
development, not naïve acceptance of its everyday meaning. They recommended that
this be pursued through empirical methods used to derive a more precise meaning of a
concept, but also recognized that scientific concepts are not static entities and, instead,
are ever changing, reflecting current states of understanding.
In our paper, we discuss previous understandings of awe, both in their historical
context and in terms of the changing meanings attributed to awe. We then describe our
investigation using the methods of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to
conceptually clarify awe. Our approach involves a secondary analysis of transcribed
interviews on awe taken from the book, Awakening to Awe: Personal Stories of Profound
Transformation (Schneider, 2009). Our goal was to describe and organize this rich data
to enhance the conceptual clarity of awe in order to build a better foundation for future
research and theorizing on awe, as well as for applications related to the use of awe.
Past Work Clarifying Awe
Awe has long been the subject of philosophical inquiry (e.g., Burke, 1770; Kant,
1790/1914). Early contributions from psychology on awe focused on taxonomical
classification and identifying its functional attributes. James’ (1902/1922) classic
exploration of religious experience was focused on the experience of individuals with
“whatever they may consider the divine” (p. 31), and he saw awe as having an important
function in this experiential aspect of religion. Several of James’ contemporaries also
commented on the functional aspect of awe in the formation of religion (Hall, 1897;
Leuba, 1906; McDougall, 1908). Similarly, early taxonomical descriptions of awe
associated it mostly with fear, such as Hall’s (1897) description of awe as a highly
refined form of fear. In McDougall’s (1908) topography of emotions, awe was seen as a
tertiary emotion comprised of admiration, a complex emotion on its own, augmented by
the primary emotion of fear. In Leuba’s (1906) description of awe, fear was seen as
present through the recognition of the power of the awed object, but kept in check
through recognition that there is no present threat.
However, the importance of fear, as identified in these early psychological
approaches to understanding awe may no longer apply to current usages of the term.
Keltner and Haidt (2003) noted that, as languages evolve, the utilization of words and
their meanings inevitably also changes through time. They concluded this applies to awe,
as the evolutionary nature of language has apparently transformed its meaning
considerably. While earlier psychological understandings of awe routinely described
elements of fear as predominating, more recent descriptions appear to deemphasize fear
(Haidt & Seder, 2009; Shiota, Kelner, & Mossman, 2007). Instead, it now appears the
concept of awe may be seen as related primarily to experiences with positive emotional
valence, but for some the term may still have connotations of fear or even terror, or a
combination of both positive and negative emotional valences (Sundararajan, 2002).
This shift in meaning is exemplified by recent usages, such as viewing awe explicitly as a
positive emotion by some within positive psychology (i.e., Saroglou, Buxant, & Tilquin,
2008), suggesting the revolutionary turn-around from its original meaning has come full
circle in some quarters.
Going beyond description to an attempt at explanation, Keltner and Haidt (2003)
developed a cognitive model of awe. They proposed a prototype, comprised of two
essential components: perceived vastness and accommodation. They also described five
other aspects of awe-related experiences, and noted that various combinations of these
aspects produce different types of awe and awe-like experiences. The five other aspects
that they saw as producing variations of awe include the perception of threat, beauty,
ability, virtue, and the supernatural. According to their approach, vastness is viewed as
comprehension of anything perceived as being larger than the self, which can be related
to physical size, social status, or other categories involving largeness. Although vastness
can be confounded with power and feeling overwhelmed, which might partially explain
how awe and fear could intertwine, the experience of vastness can be elicited from
stimuli that are not perceived as powerful (and threatening), but still seen as vast.
According to Keltner and Haidt’s cognitive model, accommodation is also important to
the experience of awe. Specifically, accommodation is understood in its Piagetian sense
as a mental reorganization needed in order to incorporate experiences that do not fit pre-
existing mental structures. This implies that the experience of awe involves a failure to
be able to assimilate an experience that is so vast that, instead, it requires
accommodation, a mental shift (i.e., awe may result from challenges to extant mental
schema that require a reorganization in order to be comprehended). There is some
support for Keltner and Haidt’s cognitive model through studies demonstrating that
dispositional proneness to awe is positively associated with openness to experience
(Shiota, Keltner & John, 2006) and negatively associated with need for cognitive closure
(Shiota et. al, 2007). This cognitive tension that awe may create appears to involve a
sense of threat to the self, caught between the potentials for self-expansiveness
(Friedman, 1983) and self-annihilation, that can be seen as an important aspect of awe
(Armstrong & Detweiler-Bedell, 2008). Other research on the elicitors of awe has found
that natural objects, art, music, and human achievement tend to be the most frequent
sources of awe-based experiences (Braud, 2001; Farber & Hall, 2007; Haidt, 2003;
Keltner & Haidt, 2003; Robbins, 2003; Shiota, Keltner & Mossman, 2007).
Additional work on clarifying the concept of awe has looked at its practical, not
just theoretical, implications. Awe has been associated with sudden or quantum
psychological changes, which have the potential to foster the goals of psychotherapy
(Bien, 2004; Miller, 2004; Resnicow, & Page 2008). Awe has also been shown to have
the capacity to ameliorate existential despair, as well as foster growth and transformation
(Andresen, 1999; Braud, 2001; Elkins, 2001; Robbins, 2003; Schneider, 2004, 2007,
2008). Awe has been seen as facilitating growth and transformation through increasing
individuals’ capacity to accept ambiguity (Armstrong & Detweiler-Bedel, 2008;
Sundararajan, 2002). Awe has also been associated with openness and the ability to
accept uncertainty, as well as to facilitate abstract self-conceptualizations, such as the
view that the self is part of something larger (i.e., similar to the construct of self-
expansiveness; Friedman, 1983; Pappas & Friedman, 2007). In this regard, awe has been
seen as enticing people to appreciate their sense of selfhood as less separate and more
interrelated to the larger context of existence (Haidt, 2003; Halstead & Halstead, 2004).
Awe has also been seen as involving the differentiation between self and others, fostering
increased self-reflection and self-awareness, and been shown to stimulate creative
pursuits (Andresen 1999; Shiota, et al. 2006; Shiota et al. 2007). Awe has even been
considered a necessary condition for psychotherapeutic change (Adame & Leitner, 2009;
Elkins, 2001; Schneider, 2004), or even as an indicator of the level of authenticity and
health of psychotherapeutic interactions (Leitner, 2007).
In summary, awe has previously been conceptualized as an experience steeped in
paradox. It has been viewed as involving combinations of both fear and terror, as well as
wonderment and mystery, challenging the usual sense of self that is experienced as
separate and moving people toward a feeling of being more interconnected and
expansive. It also has been seen as involving a sense of incomprehensibility in the face
of perceived vastness (and perhaps sacredness) of objects, moments, locations, and even
being itself. In awe, extant cognitive structures have been theorized as becoming
overwhelmed and suspended, requiring accommodative shifts during which things can be
felt as experienced directly in their suchness without cognitive mediation. Awe has also
been seen as a vehicle for psychotherapeutic and other types of personal and
transpersonal growth.
To further the conceptual clarification of awe, we used IPA. Although
quantitative strategies can be employed in such efforts, a qualitative strategy was selected
as better suited for investigating awe as a phenomenon that is not yet (and perhaps can
never be) readily measurable (Hopper, 2008). Phenomenological approaches focus on
describing experiences rather than explaining events (Giorgi, 2008; Smith, 2004), and the
goal of IPA entails deriving meaning through discovering common thematic elements
across individuals’ experiences, who are themselves, deriving meaning from such
experiences (Smith & Osborn, 2003). IPA is an inductive method that starts by
considering individuals to be experts on their own experiences. The approach used in
IPA recognizes that, just as the subjects are making sense out of their experiences as they
produce the data, the researcher is also engaged in a process of meaning making in the
analysis of the data.
IPA has been described extensively in past literature (Biggerstaff & Thompson,
2008; Brocki & Wearden, 2006; Larkin, Watts & Clifton, 2006; Palmer, Larkin, de
Visserc & Fadden, 2010; Smith, 1996, 2004). The method employed in this study closely
matches the procedures described by Smith and Osborn (2003). They noted that their
procedures represent only one possible approach to IPA, and that adaptation of their
method by other investigators can be part of an evolving interpretative process. Smith
and Osborn described the use of semi-structured, one on one, live interviews as a typical
method for gathering data in IPA. However, other methods of gathering data for IPA
include using focus groups and email-based interviews (Brocki & Weardin, 2006).
We used archival data in our study, but the original source data were obtained
from face-to-face and email-based interviews (see Schneider, 2009). The method we
employed also varied from the original IPA procedures in a more significant way, namely
our study used data originally obtained for other purposes, whereas IPA generally
involves the analysis of data created specifically for the IPA and obtained by the
investigators performing the analysis. Our study instead employed a secondary analysis
of data that were previously obtained for a different purpose, and our analysis of that data
was performed separately from the original intent in gathering the data.
Source of Our Data
The data for our analysis came from transcribed interviews found in Schneider’s
(2009) book. Schneider employed a reflective-phenomenological approach to investigate
his participants’ experiences of awe, the role awe played in their individual recoveries
from various concerns, and their thoughts about the larger potential role of awe for
society. He gathered data using a semi-structured interview format, while also using
follow-up interviews to ensure verity of his transcripts. The opening question for his
interviews was, “What does the notion of awe mean to you?” The results of his analysis
are presented in his book, along with discussion of how awe may be cultivated in
everyday experience and the potential role of awe for clinical practice, as well as in other
applied areas. Awakening to Awe contains the transcriptions of interviews from six
individuals (4 males and 2 females), and details on these six interviewees are provided in
the book. Schneider employed purposive sampling, as he had known most of the
participants prior to conducting the interviews. He discussed the potential advantages
and disadvantages to having a pre-existing relationship with some of the participants, and
argued that these pre-existing relationships facilitated a secure and supportive atmosphere
wherein the participants were able to share intimate details of their experiences. All of
the participants had been through some type of recovery process from a variety of life
challenges (e.g., depression, cancer, child abuse, etc.). All participants had also been
professionally involved in helping others in some way (e.g., performing violence
prevention, youth advocacy, psychotherapy, case work, etc.).
Our Analysis
The transcript portions of the book were read over several times, and portions
where participants discussed their subjective experiences of awe were demarcated.
Themes were then identified from statements, using a procedure that involved creating a
grid with the relevant portions of the text along the y axis. Starting with the first portion
of text, when a theme was identified, it was placed at the top of the grid along the x axis,
and the intersecting cell was marked. As subsequent portions were analyzed, any new
themes that emerged were also placed along the x axis and the intersecting cell was
marked for the newly derived theme, as well as were other themes also present and that
had previously been identified. Once all themes were identified, they were reviewed in
an iterative manner, and some themes were collapsed into larger meaning units. For
example, we identified three connectedness themes in our initial analysis: connection
with the universe, connection with the divine, and connection with all living things. We
later collapsed these into one overarching theme, simply connectedness. Last, we further
examined how these themes appeared to inter-relate with other identified themes by
forming more general categories.
Our analysis of the transcripts resulted in identifying 10 themes related to
participants’ varied experiences of awe. These themes were grouped based on the
psychological aspects that we judged most prevalent in each theme. All page numbers
given for direct quotes of interviewees in the following refer to pages within Awakening
to Awe (Schneider, 2009).
The experience of awe is significant and moving. The experience of awe often
intimates itself to the individual as a hallmark to take notice of something profoundly
important. For example, one participant described his experience of awe as, “I find that
events that evoke awe are utterly absorbing, physically riveting, and profoundly,
emotionally arousing; they are in essence, soul stirring both in the moment and in their
wake (p. 62). The theme of profoundness was one of the most common found
throughout the transcriptions. Other examples of this theme include, “I value the
significance of the moment” (p.82) and “it shakes the foundations of the world as I know
it” (p. 72). All participants made at least one statement indicating that the experience of
awe was profound, and many made several statements to that effect.
The experiences of awe described by those interviewed frequently included
descriptions of feeling connected, for example, “I am caught up in experiencing being a
part of something larger than myself and larger than my previous experience” (p. 125).
All six subjects made at least one mention of feeling connected, and many made several
such statements. There was considerable variation with regard to what subjects reported
feeling connected. Some felt connected to something nonspecific, as in the previous
quote. Other sources of a feeling of connection included with divinity, as in “that
moment of transcendence in which the human experience melded with the Divine. The
response to this is awe” (p. 134), and the universe, as in “awe conjures up the feeling of
being a small, separate entity, and yet significant somehow and connected to the
universe” (pp 81-82). Although the source of the connection varied from individual to
individual, there was a tendency to describe the self as a smaller part of the thing to
which it was connected.
The numinous, as described by Otto (1923), is a non-rational aspect of religious
experience that arises upon sensing the presence of something seen as holy, such as a
divinity. There has been recent debate regarding the differentiation of religiosity and
spirituality (Helminiak, 2008). Several authors have established spirituality as a
construct which is distinct, though often related, to religiosity (e.g., Carney, 2007;
Galanter, 2010; Kirmani & Kirmani, 2009). Religion can be viewed as the content of a
system of proscribed ideologies and related behavioral mandates, which are maintained
by tradition and formal organizations, whereas spirituality can be viewed as the
experiential process of transcendental connection and the individual formation of beliefs
about ultimate reality. In this perspective of spirituality, the notion of divinity is not
proscribed by traditional definition, rather it is deemed a personal unique element of an
individual’s spirituality (Mohandas, 2008). This approach to conceptualizing divinity is
aligned with the existential-humanistic view that humans make meaning out of their
experiences, and several of the participants discussed elements of divinity as being
related to their experiences of awe. One participant stated, “awe is the reflection of one’s
total response to living one’s mental map. In some traditions, ‘accepting Jesus is an
awe-inspiring event, as is being one with God, or Nirvana, or attaining paradise…. The
response to this is awe (p. 134). Another participant stated, awe is not a deity, yet it
suggests a deified state of being” (p. 119), implying divinity is a possible human
capacity, and awe a means of transcendence to divinity. As noted earlier, while
spirituality and religion may be distinct, they are also often related, namely for many
individuals religion is the foundation and source for spiritual experiences. One
participant illustrated this in discussing his experiences with awe, as follows: one day
something stirred me enough [while in church] where I couldn't go back without
becoming an altar boy, without becoming part of the ceremony (p. 35). For many,
religion is their sole source of spirituality, for others spiritual experiences arise from both
religious and secular activities, and there are those who have no religious affiliation yet
experience spirituality through a variety of means. For all who acknowledge a spiritual
life, the numinous is that aspect of spiritual experience wherein the individual senses and
reveres a transcendent presence of some sort. This presence may be conceived of as a
deity, a spirit, universal consciousness, or some other construct, depending on the belief
system of the individual, and these varied notions of the numinous were often connected
with awe in our study.
Compared to other themes, the theme of terror or fear was less frequently
associated with descriptions of awe. One subjected observed, “occasionally, my
experience of awe is suffused with anxiety or fear associated [with] bearing witness or
being subject to powerful forces that pose a threat to existence or are beyond my ken and
control (p. 62). However, it should be noted that many descriptions of awe in this
sample did not include elements of fear, let alone terror, despite earlier approaches that
emphasized this aspect as essential to awe, such as the philosophical and early
psychological depictions discussed previously that included fear as an essential part of
awe. Our findings reflect the more modern notion that awe may, but does not
necessarily, include a fear component, as it seems that while awe is sometimes still
associated with intimations of fear, it does not appear to be a necessary condition for the
term to be invoked.
In Keltner and Haidt’s (2003) cognitive model of awe, they noted that one of its
essential features is perceived vastness. In their depiction of awe, vastness includes
physical characteristics, as well as abstract concepts such as grand theory. All subjects in
the sample included elements of vastness, complexity, and/or infinity in their descriptions
of awe. One participant stated, “it’s a stirring of the soul that is the bigger picture of all
of us-which, as far as I can understand it, is endless, limitless (Schneider, 2009, p. 30).
The aspect of vastness is often related to the sense of connectedness. For example,
another participant noted, “awe conjures up the feeling of being a small, separate entity,
and yet significant somehow and connected to the universe” (Schneider, 2009, pp. 81-
82). As Keltner and Haidt observed, the aspect of vastness (i.e., inferred from this last
quote through the comparative emphasis on the smallness felt by the participant) appears
to be a common element for many of the experience of awe, but must not be narrowly
defined along only physical dimensions.
Existential Awareness
Another theme that was found related to the sense of connectedness is existential
awareness. The descriptions of awe often included elements of self-reflection related to
experience of self as a part of something larger. Other descriptions of awe were found to
contain elements related to the experience of existence itself. One participant stated,
awe brings me fully into the present moment. It is a vehicle, which transports me to a
wilder, unconditioned self, vibrantly in touch with being (as opposed to doing), calling
passion, and divinity in all forms of life (pp. 62-63). The reflectivity that awe often
inspires may lead to consideration of other existential conditions, for example another
participant stated, to have a sense of awe is to be open to our mortality and eventual
death” (p.127). The experience of awe can bring people in touch with elements of being
that are not typically considered in routine daily activities and thereby creates the
potential for both existential growth and crisis.
Openness and Acceptance
The concept of openness and acceptance was frequently found among the
descriptions of awe. Often, openness was described as a precondition for awe and
acceptance of uncertainty was described as being an aspect of the experience of awe,
which leads to a deeper understanding. One participant stated, another aspect of awe
that I feel is important involves an acceptance of not knowing, but appreciating in spite of
this” (p. 82). Awe is related to other forms of acceptance, such as mortality as mentioned
in the previous quote on existential awareness. This also included accepting limitations,
as one participant stated, “the sense of awe, the sense of possibility is that we only
touch our strength by admitting our powerlessness” (p. 109), and acceptance of the
totality of self as expressed by another participant, “for me healing involves being in awe
of my whole self, which requires great attention and appreciation of who I am, my
shadow side not being an exception” (p. 86). Several participants also noted that the
experience of awe fosters openness, for example, “awe creates this gaping wound of
openness, so I have to check myself before I start filling it in with certainty” (p. 94).
Ineffable Wonder
Wonder and mystery are experiences that invoke awe, and conversely can be the
result of experiences of awe. One participant stated, moments of awe punctuate my life
with exclamation marks of wonder, mystery, reverence and graceparticularly when the
extraordinary or ineffable is encountered” (pp. 62-63), while another stated, “awe is
essential to wonder, and vice versa” (p. 90). Related to sense of wonder is the
inexplicable nature of the awe experience. One participant stated, “the full-bodied
richness of awe eludes cerebral definition; it simply bursts the seams of
intellectualization” (p. 63), while another stated, awe is a feeling, an emotional state that
defies logic and reason” (p. 126). Although wonder and mystery are elements of awe, the
experience can also arise from the ordinary when one is open to its potential, as expressed
by a participant, “awe is a natural response to being alive, to being aware of my
surroundings and experiencing those things beyond my control and understanding (p.
The experience of awe has the tendency to halt the continual flow of mental
chatter that inhibits our ability to perceive the world about us as it occurs in the present.
With the mind focused on the future or the past, the present is obfuscated, but awe has the
capacity to clear the mental obstruction allowing us to become fully focused on the here
and now. As one participant noted, “awe teaches me--how to pause” (p. 33), while other
examples include, “awe brings me fully into the present moment” (p. 62), and “may I
suggest awe as a heightened present, existing as unbound to time?” (p. 119). An
encounter with the majesty of nature, as in a visit to the Grand Canyon or Niagara falls,
can induce the experience of awe in which the individual becomes fully absorbed in the
moment. Conversely an individual may allow themselves to become fully immersed in
any moment, and become open to the experience of being, which can result in the
experience of awe.
Heightened Perceptions
The experience of awe often involves a heightening of sensations and perceptions.
In states of awe, there can be a greater degree than usual of vividness and salience of
perceptual stimuli, as well as an enhanced capacity for discernment. One participant
stated that awe is getting outside of the usual level of experience into another dimension
of reality. With this new level of awareness colors can appear brighter, sounds sweeter,
light more luminous, and life somehow lifted to a different plane and improved (p. 125).
Other descriptions of enhanced perception included, through the portal of awe, I saw the
world around me in Technicolor” (p. 71) and “it is if I have suddenly awakened, with
perception expanded and heart lights ablaze” (p. 63).
Analysis of Themes
Analysis of these ten themes revealed that three were more prevalent, namely
profoundness, connection and existential awareness, but no one theme emerged as clearly
superordinate. However, several patterns of relationships among the thematic elements
were observed. For example, the degree of perceived vastness or complexity seemed to
relate to the ineffability of the experience, similar to how Kant (1790/1914) noted that
ineffability serves as an internal signal of the profoundness of the experience. Also,
connectedness and existential awareness seemed related to one another, as a figure-
ground dichotomy such that, in order to experience the self as connected, one perhaps
must first experience the self as separate. Andresen (1999) noted that this aspect of awe
provides a necessary component for intimacy.
In order to further extend the clarification of awe, we tentatively grouped the
identified themes into three psychological categories: emotional, cognitive, and sensory.
The emotional group contains the themes of profoundness, connectedness, numinous, and
fear. The cognitive group contains the themes of vastness, existential awareness,
openness and acceptance, and ineffable wonder. The sensory group contains the themes
of presence and heightened perceptions. The boundaries of these groupings should be
considered fuzzy, as there is both overlap (e.g., the theme of openness and acceptance has
both cognitive and emotional aspects) and reciprocal influences among the elements (e.g.,
recognition of the infinite often appears to increase the degree of profundity). These
groupings are offered only tentatively, as a way of preliminary organizing the results of
our primary analysis, and may or may not represent well the deeper structural aspects of
Our analysis of six in-depth interviews focused on discussing awe identified ten
themes. This demonstrated that, despite the complexity of the phenomenon, a
clarification of awe through empirically identifying themes from interview data can yield
patterns of potential value. Of course, results from this small purposive sample cannot be
generalized universally to all people’s experience of awe, but the patterns that emerged
may help clarify the concept. In addition, because the sample we used was selected and
interviewed for another purpose, our analysis of this as secondary data was limited in a
number of ways, such as by our inability to dig deeper by asking penetrating follow-up
questions. In addition, the IPA method employed explicitly acknowledges that any
analysis through the interpretative process reflects both the meanings derived from the
data by the analysts and that the data reflects the meanings created by the participants in
response to their experiences, a double level of meaning-making that can be difficult to
untangle. As such, conclusions based on our analysis should be appropriately
circumscribed as exploratory, but the results of our analysis will hopefully inform future
research endeavors. Finally, part of clarifying a concept involved delineating what it is
from what it is not. Awe has considerable overlap with other related terms, such as
mystical experiences of which it has been seen as one part (e.g., Hood, 1975), and our
study did not attempt looking at conceptual divergences but, rather, focused only on the
convergences in terms of common themes and categories relevant to awe.
In terms of need for future research, confirmatory studies could determine if the
themes and categories we have identified here are replicable in other samples.
Developing a clearer understanding of awe could also benefit from addressing a wider
variety of questions in the future, going beyond our focus on exploring how awe is
conceptualized in a very general way from the data we had available. These questions
could include asking more about specifics, such as what are the precursors that elicit awe
and what are the consequences of experiencing it, how can it be classified within
taxonomies of other experiences (e.g., emotional and cognitive), what functions might
awe serve, and what behaviors are related to it, among other possibilities?
Once a concept is better clarified, it is easier to use it in both theory building and
empirical research, and there are a number of avenues to explore from this foundation.
For example, Huron (2006) experimentally explored how music can evoke various
feelings, including awe, based on a theory of expectation grounded in cognitive and
evolutionary psychology. He proposed that aesthetic emotions, including awe, can be
evoked in five distinct ways related to expectations, namely through reaction responses
related to defensive reflexes, tension responses related to uncertainty stresses, prediction
responses related to reward prediction, imagination responses related to deferred
gratification, and appraisal responses related to conscious evaluations. He showed how
various musical techniques (e.g., cadence, climax, meter, syncopation, and tonality) can
lead to expectations, and his work provides a possible avenue for exploring the
physiological underpinnings of at least some aspects of awe. Likewise, the renewed
availability of psychedelic research (Friedman, 2006) has important implications for
legally using these substances in experimental approaches for inducing and exploring
awe, as does the burgeoning interest in mindfulness and other meditation techniques
(Friedman, 2010). Our own future research plans include exploring how near-death
experiences (Fracasso & Friedman, 2011) might relate to understanding awe.
In Awakening to Awe, Schneider (2009) has demonstrated the potential awe has to
transform lives and facilitate the optimum development of human potential through his
case studies and analysis. Schneider argued that the depletion of awe in our culture has
led to a modern day malaise wherein the capacity to tolerate the depths of emotion has
withered. In place of this capacity, we increasingly find a culture searching for ways to
avoid experiencing the depth of being. Schneider wondered if modern psychology,
reflecting contemporary culture, has begun to promote the illusion of a superficial
happiness obtained through an emotionally muted facsimile of life. He advocated,
instead, that a fully-lived life embraces the entire spectrum of experience, accepting that
the depths of pain and the pinnacles of joy are part and parcel of the human experience.
The alternative, he further argued, is merely a watered-down version of existence, which
alleviates our need to tolerate profound affect in return for the hollow promise of an
illusory version of happiness. This diminished reality most of us have come to passively
accept is marketed to us through consumerism, religious fundamentalism, overreliance on
psychiatric medications, and short-sighted therapeutic interventions, according to which
Schneider offers insights for developing the capacity for cultivating awe in everyday life.
This adds to his work elsewhere, in which he described psychotherapeutic approaches
that promote awe (Schneider, 2007, 2008). It is our similar hope that developing a more
precise and scientific understanding of the elements of awe, through conceptual
clarification, might facilitate not only more scientific research and theory development,
but also better psychological interventions that can effectively foster an increased
capacity for enjoying and tolerating the full range of human experiences.
The personal stories in Awakening to Awe (Schneider, 2009) poignantly illustrate
the capacity of awe to heal and transform. In addition, the interview transcripts provided
a rich dataset for our exploration of the thematic elements of awe as described by the
participants in their own words. In our paper, we have presented an IPA analysis of this
complex phenomenon, contributing to the body of knowledge on the subject by further
clarifying the concept of awe. The findings in our analysis are largely consistent with
classical treatments of awe, but with the exception that the theme of fear and terror was
not frequently present in our data, congruent with more recent changes in conceptualizing
awe. This difference could merely be a function of the idiosyncrasies of our study (e.g.,
the small and purposive-selected sample) or it may represent an evolution of the common
understanding of awe. Our analysis complements the prototype cognitive model
proposed by Keltner and Haidt (2003), which describes awe as a need for accommodation
following perceived vastness. Their model succinctly presents an explanatory model of
awe, while our study focused on describing the experiential aspects of awe, based on and
extending Schneider’s multiple works on the topic. Finally, we hope that our effort will
spark further empirical investigations into this most human of phenomena, which remains
woefully underrepresented in the research literature considering its centrality to much of
humanistic and transpersonal psychology, as well as its potential for creative applications
in psychotherapy and related growth methods.
Adame, A. L., & Leitner, L. M. (2009). Reverence and recovery: Experiential personal
construct psychotherapy and transpersonal reverence. Journal of Constructivist
Psychology, 22, 253267.
Andresen, J. J. (1999). Awe and the transforming of awareness. Contemporary
Psychoanalysis, 35, 507521. Armstrong, T., & Detweiler-Bedell, B. (2008).
Beauty as an emotion: The exhilarating prospect of mastering a challenging
world. Review of General Psychology, 12, 305329.
Bien, T. (2004). Quantum change and psychotherapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology,
60, 493501.
Biggerstaff, D., & Thompson, A. R. (2008). Interpretative phenomenological analysis
(IPA): A qualitative methodology of choice in healthcare research. Qualitative
Research in Psychology, 5, 214224.
Braud, W. (2001). Experiencing tears of wonder–joy: Seeing with the heart’s eye.
Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 33, 99111.
Brocki, J. M., & Wearden, A. J. (2006). A critical evaluation of the use of interpretative
phenomenological analysis (IPA) in health psychology. Psychology and Health,
21, 87108.
Burke, E. (1770). A philosophical enquiry into the origin of our ideas of the sublime and
beautiful (6th ed.). London: J. Dodsley. Retrieved July 2, 2010 from
Carney, S. A. (2007). A qualitative study of women therapists’ experiences of spirituality
in the counseling process (Doctoral dissertation). Western Michigan University.
Retrieved from ProQuest (Order No. 3265913).
Elkins, D. N. (2001). Reflections on mystery and awe. Psychotherapy Patient, 11, 163
Emmons, R., & Paloutzian, R. (2003). The psychology of religion. Annual Review of
Psychology, 54, 377402.
Farber, M. E., & Hall, T. E. (2007). Emotion and environment: Visitors’ extraordinary
experiences along the Dalton highway in Alaska. Journal of Leisure Research,
39, 248270.
Fortin, M. (2008). Perspectives on organizational justice: Concept clarification, social
context integration, time and links with morality. International Journal of
Management Reviews, 10, 93126.
Fracasso, C., & Friedman, H. (2011). Near-death experiences and the possibility of
disembodied consciousness: Challenges to prevailing neurobiological and
psychosocial theories. Neuroquantology, 9, 41-53.
Friedman, H. (1983). The Self-Expansiveness Level Form: A conceptualization and
measurement of a transpersonal construct. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology,
15, 3750.
Friedman, H. (2006). The renewal of psychedelic research: Implications for humanistic
and transpersonal psychology. The Humanistic Psychologist, 34, 3958.
Friedman, H. (2010). Is Buddhism a psychology? Commentary on romanticism in
‘‘Mindfulness in psychology.’’ The Humanistic Psychologist, 38, 184189.
Gable, S., & Haidt, J. (2005). What (and why) is positive psychology? Review of
General Psychology, 9, 103110.
Galanter, M. (2010). Spirituality in psychiatry: A biopsychosocial perspective.
Psychiatry, 73, 145157.
Giorgi, A. (2008). Concerning a serious misunderstanding of the essence of the
phenomenological method in psychology. Journal of Phenomenological Inquiry,
39, 3358.
Haidt, J. (2003). The moral emotions. In R. J. Davidson, K. R. Scherer, & H. H.
Goldsmith (Eds.), Handbook of affective sciences (pp. 852870). Oxford,
England: Oxford University Press.
Haidt, J., & Seder, P. (2009). Admiration and awe. In D. Sander & K Scherer (Eds.),
Oxford companion to Emotion and affective science (pp. 45). New York:
Oxford University Press.
Hall, G. S. (1897). A study of fears. American Journal of Psychology, 8, 147249.
Retrieved February 5, 2011 from
Halstead, J. M., & Halstead, A. O. (2004). Awe, tragedy and the human condition.
International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 9, 163175.
Hartelius, G., Caplan, M., & Rardin, M. (2007). Transpersonal psychology: Defining the
past, divining the future. The Humanistic Psychologist, 35, 135160.
Helminiak, D. (2008). Confounding the divine and the spiritual: Challenges to a
psychology of spirituality. Pastoral Psychology, 57, 161182.
Hood, R. (1975). The construction and preliminary validation of a measure of reported
mystical experience. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 14, 2941.
Hopper, K. (2008). Qualitative and quantitative research: Two cultures. Psychiatric
Services, 59, 711.
Hupcey, J. (2002). Maintaining validity: The development of the concept of trust.
International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 1, 4553.
Huron, D. (2006). Sweet anticipation: Music and the psychology of expectation.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
James, W. (1922). The varieties of religious experience: A study in human nature.
London: Longmans, Green and Co. (Original work Published 1902). Retrieved
January 10, 2011 from
Kant, I. (1914). Kant’s critique of judgment; (2nd. ed. rev. J. H. Bernard, Trans.), New
York: Macmillan. (Original work published 1790)
Keltner, D., & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic
emotion. Emotion and Cognition, 17, 297317.
Kirmani, M. H., & Kirmani, S. (2009). Recognition of seven spiritual identities and its
implications on children. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 14,
Konecni, V. (2005). The aesthetic trinity: Awe, being moved, thrills. Bulletin of the
Psychology and the Arts, 5, 2744.
Kunyk, D., & Olson, J. (2001). Clarification of conceptualizations of empathy. Journal
of Advanced Nursing, 35, 317325.
Larkin, M., Watts, S., & Clifton, E. (2006). Giving voice and making sense in
interpretive phenomenological analysis. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3,
Leitner, L. M. (2007). Theory, technique, and person: Technical integration in
experiential constructivist psychotherapy. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration,
17, 3349.
Leuba, J. H. (1906). Fear, awe and the sublime in religion: A chapter in the study of
instincts, impulses, and motives in religious life. American Journal of Religious
Psychology and Education, 2, 123.
McDougall, W. (1908). An introduction to social psychology. London: Methuen & Co.
Miller, W. (2004). The phenomenon of quantum change. Journal of Clinical
Psychology, 60, 453460.
Mohandas, E. (2008). Neurobiology of spirituality. Mens Sana Monographs, 6, 6380.
Otto, R. (1923). The idea of the holy: An inquiry into the non-rational factor in the idea
of the divine and it’s relation to the rational (J. W. Harvey, Trans). London:
Oxford University Press. (Original work published 1917)
Palmer, M., Fadden, G., Larkin, M., & de Visser, R. (2010). Developing an interpretative
phenomenological approach to focus group data. Qualitative Research in
Psychology, 7, 99121.
Pappas, J., & Friedman, H. (2007). The construct of self-expansiveness and the validity
of the Transpersonal Scale of the Self-Expansiveness Level Form. The
Humanistic Psychologist, 35, 323347.
Penrod, J., & Hupcey, J. (2005). Enhancing methodological clarity: Principle-based
concept analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 50, 403409.
Resnicow, K., & Page, S. (2008). Embracing chaos and complexity: A quantum change
for public health. American Journal of Public Health, 98, 13821389.
Robbins, B. D. (2003, June). Joy, awe, gratitude and compassion: Common ground in a
will-to-openness. Presentation at the Works of Love: Scientific and Religious
Perspectives on Altruism Conference, Philadelphia, PA. Retrieved July 2, 2010
Robbins, B. D. (2008). What is the good life? Positive psychology and the renaissance of
humanistic psychology. The Humanistic Psychologist, 36, 96112.
Saroglou, V., Buxant, C., & Tilquin, J. (2008). Positive emotions as leading to religion
and spirituality. Journal of Positive Psychology, 3, 165173.
Schneider, K. J. (2004). Rediscovery of awe: Splendor, mystery and the fluid center of
life. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House.
Schneider, K. J. (2007). The experiential liberation strategy of existentialintegrative
model of therapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 37, 3339.
Schneider, K. J. (2008). Existentialintegrative psychotherapy: Guideposts to the core of
practice. New York: Routledge.
Schneider, K. (2009). Awakening to awe: Personal stories of profound transformation.
Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson.
Shiota, M. N., Keltner, D., & John, O. P. (2006). Positive emotion dispositions
differentially associated with Big Five personality and attachment style. Journal
of Positive Psychology, 1, 6171.
Shiota, M., N., Keltner, D., & Mossman, A. (2007). The nature of awe: Elicitors,
appraisals, and effects on self-concept. Cognition and Emotion, 21, 944963.
Smith, J. A. (1996). Beyond the divide between cognition and discourse: Using
interpretive phenomenological analysis in health psychology. Psychology and
Health, 11, 261271.
Smith, J. A. (2004). Reflecting on the development of interpretative phenomenological
analysis and its contribution to qualitative research in psychology. Qualitative
Research in Psychology, 1, 3954.
Smith, J. A., & Osborn, M. (2003). Interpretive phenomenological analysis. In J. A.
Smith (Ed.), Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods (pp.
5180). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Sundararajan, L. (2002). Religious awe: Potential contributions of negative theology to
psychology, ‘‘positive’’ or otherwise. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical
Psychology, 22, 174197.
... Virtual Reality provides researchers and people with the possibility to be immersed within a simulated world, which is completely manipulated and in which users' movements can be fully tracked along with their physiological parameters. Therefore, if Bonner and Friedman (2011) were able to exploit secondary data coming from spontaneous lived experiences of awe (Schneider 2009), experimental researchers cannot long for the same in the lab. To this end, experimental research has devoted effort not only to study awe-related effects in a controlled way in the lab but especially to improve the induction methodology of such complex emotion, in order to grasp its transformative potential for cognition and human change (Chirico et al. 2017;Chirico et al. 2018a, b, c;Chirico and Yaden 2018;Chirico et al. 2016). ...
... Along with philosophical perspectives on awe (Burke 1844;Kant 1989), which highlighted the importance of the negative fearful component of this emotion, also early psychological contributions on awe (Hall 1897;McDougall 1908) strongly endorsed a negative nuance of this emotion. However, lately, with psychological work of , the negative side of awe gradually disappearedin line with the current usage of the wordand attenuated the component of fear (Bonner and Friedman 2011). Currently, its meaning is closer to wonder and reverence (Sander and Scherer 2014), with a more positive definition and use of this term with few exceptions (e.g., Sundararajan 2002). ...
... Despite researchers still struggle to define the nature of this emotion, most agree that awe can be conceived as the core of profound changes in life (Bonner and Friedman 2011;Chirico and Yaden 2018;Miller and C'de Baca 2001;Pearsall 2007;Schneider 2017;Skalski and Hardy 2013;Yaden et al. 2017). Particularly, psychologists devoted the last 20 years to analyze the process underlying this change as well as the consequences of awe for human well-being and progress (Chirico et al. 2016). ...
Action research is an approach to research which aims at both taking action and creating knowledge or theory about that action as the action unfolds. It starts with everyday experience and is concerned with the development of living knowledge. Its characteristics are that it generates practical knowledge in the pursuit of worthwhile purposes; it is participative and democratic as its participants work together in the present tense in defining the questions they wish to explore, the methodology for that exploration, and its application through cycles of action and reflection. In this vein they are agents of change and coresearchers in knowledge generation and not merely passive subjects as in traditional research. In this vein, action research can be understood as a social science of the possible as the collective action is focused on creating a desired future in whatever context the action research is located.
... There are many kinds of elicitors that induce awe, such as social elicitors (e.g., powerful leader, religion), physical elicitors (e.g., tornado, grand vista), and cognitive elicitors (e.g., grand theory) [2]. As a collective and self-transcendent emotion, awe encourages individuals to go beyond their own momentary desires and enhance the welfare of others [3][4][5], which enables them to fold into collaborative social groups and engage in collective action [6]. ...
... The feelings as information theory proposes that individuals' feelings can be the source of information which would affect subsequent judgments and decisions, and different emotions produce different feelings [17]. The sense of connectedness is the main feeling produced by awe [3], which is defined as the feeling of unity with society, nature, humanity, and even with the universe beyond one's self feature [18,19]. A growing body of evidence shows that individuals could experience a deep sense of connectedness when they are feeling awe [3,[18][19][20][21]. ...
... The sense of connectedness is the main feeling produced by awe [3], which is defined as the feeling of unity with society, nature, humanity, and even with the universe beyond one's self feature [18,19]. A growing body of evidence shows that individuals could experience a deep sense of connectedness when they are feeling awe [3,[18][19][20][21]. Findings from the study of phenomenology have shown that people always feel connected with the universe, the divine, or something nonspecific when experiencing awe [3]. ...
Full-text available
Awe is an emotion frequently experienced by individuals in different cultures. When individuals experience awe, they would feel a sense of connectedness to other people or nature arises, and shift their attention to the outside world, which would increase empathy for others in need and, in turn, improve their prosocial tendencies. To test this proposal, we applied a cross-sectional study using a questionnaire survey to collect a sample of 1545 (Nfemale = 988) in Asia, aged between 16 and 71 years old (M = 22.81, SD = 7.80). The Structural Equation Model and bootstrapping method were used to test the mediation effects of connectedness and empathy between awe and prosocial tendency. Results showed that dispositional awe positively predicted a prosocial tendency, which could be partially explained by the multiple mediation effects of connectedness and empathy, after controlling for the effect of the small self. The findings deepen researchers’ understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the relationship between awe and prosociality and have practical implications for cultivating awe and prosocial behavior.
... Specifically, the sense of connectedness means the feelings of unity with society, nature, humanity, and even with the universe beyond one's self feature (Yaden et al., 2016(Yaden et al., , 2019. When experiencing the feeling of awe, individuals are more likely to experience a heightened sense of connectedness with others and the world (Bonner & Friedman, 2011;Van Cappellen & Saroglou, 2012;Yaden et al., 2016Yaden et al., , 2019 and even generate an overview effect by broadening their own boundaries (Yaden et al., 2016). There is converging evidence that both social and natural connectedness could promote prosociality. ...
... In addition, an investigation has found that over 85% of awe experiences in daily life are positive . The mainstream research of awe focuses on the effects of positive-valenced awe (Bonner & Friedman, 2011;Shiota et al., 2007). Therefore, in Studies 3 and 4, we induced the feeling of awe with positive valence, following previous work. ...
... Feelings as the source of information would affect judgments and decisions. The sense of connectedness is the main feeling brought by awe (Bonner & Friedman, 2011). Studies have shown that the awe triggers intense feeling of connectedness Yaden et al., 2016). ...
Full-text available
The promoter of prosocial behavior in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic needs to be examined. Here, we examined the effect of experienced awe through cross-sectional (Study 1), a 3-wave longitudinal (Study 2) and experimental (Study 3–4) approaches. Study 1 showed that dispositional awe positively predicted one’s prosocial behavior in the pandemic (N = 1281). Study 2 (N = 332) observed that experienced awe predicted higher prosociality, and this relationship was serially mediated by connectedness and empathy. Study 3 (N = 153) and 4 (N = 156) confirmed that elicited awe, compared to that of amusement and neutrality, promoted multiple types of prosociality (Study 3) and willingness of blood donation (Study 4) via serial mediation of connectedness and empathy. These findings suggest that the experience of awe increases one’s connectedness to the world, which in turn enhances empathic concern and prosociality in pandemic fighting.
... Feelings as Information Theory suggests that individuals usually take their feelings as a source of information which would affect the subsequent judgments and decisions (18). Connectedness is the main feeling produced by awe (19). Studies have found that awe reduces interpersonal psychological distance and promotes individuals to connect themselves with the world (14, 20). ...
... In addition, Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions states that positive emotion shares the ability to broaden individuals' momentary thought-action repertoires and build their enduring personal resources, which provides possibilities to support others (23). As a positive emotion (19,24,25), awe may increase empathy for others (26). Empathy, an other-oriented prosocial affect including compassion, sympathy, and tenderness (27), is an effective factor for performing kindness (28) and lessening stigma toward stigmatized groups (5,29,30). ...
Full-text available
Stigma toward people with HIV or AIDS produces significant harms to their life and also hinders the prevention of AIDS. In the present study, we tested whether awe can weaken AIDS-related stigma and the mediating role of connectedness and empathy between them through a cross-sectional study (Study 1, N = 372) and two experimental studies (Study 2a and 2b, N = 110 and N = 180, respectively). Results showed that awe reduced AIDS-related stigma (Study 2a and 2b), via the serial mediation of connectedness and empathy (Study 1 and 2b). These findings suggest that the experience of awe increases one’s connectedness to the world, which then enhances empathy and decreases AIDS-related stigma. This study expands our understanding of the relationship between awe and stigma, providing empirical basis for decreasing social prejudice to others.
... Study 1 examined whether children recognize the elicitor of awe and how children emotionally react to awe-inspiring experiences. Much of the existing conceptualizations and findings on adults suggest that awe-inspiring experiences lead to perceivable shifts in one's emotional state, often leading to enhanced or intensified positive emotions (Bonner & Friedman, 2011;Chirico & Yaden, 2018;Darbor et al., 2016) and sometimes leading to fearful feelings and chills Yaden et al., 2018). In this study, we took an exploratory look at changes in children's basic emotions after they watched a video that has been used to elicit awe in adult studies. ...
Full-text available
Humans may have evolved to appreciate awe-inspiring experiences. To shed light on its origin, four studies (three preregistered) examined 4-9-year-old children’s (N = 301) perceptions of awe-inspiring experiences. Children recognized vast nature as an elicitor of awe facial expression and reported mixed emotions in response to awe experiences (Study 1). Both positive (Study 2) and threatening (Study 3) awe experiences were more likely than neutral experiences to promote perceived vastness, motivation to explore, and awareness of unknown things. Compared to crowd experiences, awe experiences elicited more of these effects and positively affected children’s sense of self (Study 4). These findings suggest that awe experiences are appreciated early in life, shedding light on the origin and nature of this important self-transcendent experience.
... Pearce et al. defined awe as an intense (and usually positive) emotion often experienced by individuals visiting nature-based tourism destinations; it has the potential to nurture strong connections between individuals and their environment [101]. Bonner and Friedman [102] provided a conceptual clarification of the complexity and multifaceted nature of the concept of awe proposed by Schneider [103]. They identified ten themes that helped to explain the concept of awe: profoundness, connectedness, numinous, vastness, existential awareness, openness and acceptance, ineffable wonder, presence, heightened perception, and fear. ...
Full-text available
This paper maps the cultural ecosystem services (CES) of a well-known giant-wave hotspot located in Nazaré, Portugal. The paper adopts a qualitative approach combining an auto-ethnographic direct observation of a journey and the content analysis of photos and videos posted on the YouTube and Facebook pages of tourists and operators. A total of 44 geotagged photos from a sample of 6914 photos retrieved from Flickr allowed the classification and spatial distribution of several CES: (1) recreational—surf activities; (2) aesthetic—photography; (3) spiritual—dark tourism and risk recreation; (4) intangible heritage—maritime knowledge; (5) scientific—wave height forecast; (6) sense of place; and (7) social relations. The paper also proposes a theoretical framework that highlights the pull drivers (risk recreation, storm chasing, or spectacular death voyeurism) and the push drivers (e.g., marketing campaigns and wave forecasts alerts) that explain the behaviors of the big-wave spectators/chasers during the experience journey. Public decision-makers, destination marketing organizations, tourism operators, and business entrepreneurs must acknowledge the relevance of journey mapping in order to identify the moments of stress and the touchpoints associated with peak/positive experiences generated by these CES. This study confirms some push and pull factors assessed by previous studies.
The emotions that can be considered members of the set of Aesthetic Emotions (AEs) is controversial. The present study investigated the terms used by researchers in peer reviewed studies to exemplify AEs. 100 publications from 2000–2019 exemplifying AE terms were located to produced 111 AEs which were proposed as the basis of an AE lexicon. Awe, (being) moved and wonder were reliable members and without contradiction. One fifth were negatively valenced (e.g., anger, disgust), suggesting that the presence of negative AEs is generally accepted but not reliably. One quarter of the entries were also non-AEs and an additional 20 were exclusively so, producing a total of 131 terms. The lexicon is a concrete, dynamic set of examples against which to investigate extant definitions of AEs and to further develop theory. The robust presence of three terms suggests that calls to abandon the concept of AE may be premature.
This investigation focused on the antecedents and impacts on volunteer pro-environmental behavior, and explored the effects of meaningfulness through pride and environmental passion according to the cognitive appraisal theory of emotions. A mixed method research design was used, consisting of interviews, observations, and surveys with volunteers. The research was conducted at Danxia Mountain in Guangdong Province, China, a protected area, UNESCO World Heritage List site, and Geopark. Based on a survey of 302 volunteers, a sequential mediating model was tested through bootstrapping. It was found that perceived volunteering meaningfulness improved sustainable pro-environmental behavior, and pride and environmental passion played sequential mediating roles between meaningfulness and pro-environmental behavior. Compared with pride, environmental passion was the more significant and proximal antecedent of pro-environmental behavior. In addition, awe of the place strengthened the effects of pride and environmental passion on pro-environmental behavior. Theoretical and managerial implications for sustainable development practices in protected areas are outlined.
To combat climate change and foster sustainable development, climate change inaction must be reduced, and this requires understanding the factors that lead to inaction. In the present research, we first investigated the possible mediation of the “dragons of inaction” psychological barriers (DIPB) and nature connectedness on the relationships between mindfulness and climate change inaction, and awe and climate change inaction. Later, an integrated theoretical model involving all the variables of interest was tested. The results showed that the associations of mindfulness and awe with climate change inaction were both mediated by the DIPB and nature connectedness. Moreover, mindfulness was significantly and negatively linked with climate change inaction through the sequential mediation of awe and the DIPB, and awe and nature connectedness. These findings advance the current understanding of climate change inaction. At the same time, they suggest that improving mindfulness and awe may effectively reduce climate change inaction by breaking down psychological barriers and increasing nature connectedness.
Full-text available
Maintaining validity while moving a concept to a higher level of maturity is a dilemma that faces all qualitative researchers. In this section, research projects related to the concept of trust will be used to illustrate how new studies can be built on previous ones and then all studies integrated to develop a comprehensive model without compromising validity. The multiple stages of inquiry will be elucidated using the strategies of deconstruction, development of a skeletal framework, and scaffolding as described by in the opening section by Morse and Mitcham.
Full-text available
Claims from those having near-death experiences (NDEs), as well as those sympathetic to such claims, challenge the prevailing assumption that consciousness is dependent on a functioning brain. Extant theories, both neurobiological and psychosocial, that attempt to explain NDEs are examined and found unable to adequately account for the full range of NDE reports, especially electromagnetic after-effects and out-of-body experiences with veridical perception. As a result, many leading NDE researchers have proposed that a new model is needed to explain how consciousness could possibly exist independently of the brain, mainly relying on theories from quantum physics. Our paper critically evaluates a range of extant neurobiological and psychosocial theories of NDEs, as well as examines theories that might offer more promise in fully explaining NDEs, especially those using insights derived from quantum physics. We conclude that the "hard problem" of consciousness is not yet solved, but that NDEs provide an important avenue for exploring the relationship between consciousness and brain, as well as possibly understanding a disembodied concept of consciousness.
To assess how the natural environment and social interaction foster emotional outcomes, this study surveyed recreational visitors to the Dalton Highway in northern Alaska (258 guided visitors, 187 independent travelers) about a special experience they had, the factors that influenced it, and the emotions it engendered. Scenery - especially mountains - was the most commonly mentioned feature, with vastness, contrasts, and colors emerging as important dimensions. Seeing wildlife was important in half of the special experiences, especially when it involved being near animals, watching natural behavior, or seeing young animals. Surprising, novel, or unexpected circumstances were explicitly described by nearly one fifth of respondents. The emotions of awe, excitement, and pleasure were strongly associated with special experiences. Experiences in which wildlife and scenery were experienced either as part of a social group or during a recreational activity generated significantly higher levels of positive affect. These findings emphasize the importance of positive emotions as a benefit of recreational activities and provide insight into the nature of extraordinary experiences.
A measure of reported mystical experience is presented. This "Mysticism Scale, Research Form D (M scale)," has 32 items, four for each of 8 categories of mysticism initially conceptualized by Stace (1960). Items on this scale are both positively and negatively expressed to avoid problems of response set. A factor analysis of the M Scale indicated two major factors, a general mystical experience factor (20 items) and a religious interpretation factor (12 items). Preliminary evidence indicates that those high on the M Scale have more intrinsic religious motivation as defined by Hoge's (1972) scale, are more open to experience as defined by Taft's (1970) ego permissiveness scale, have more intense religious experience as defined by Hood's (1970) scale, and have moderately higher scores on the L, Hs, and Hy scales of the MMPI.
A number of medication trials at major U.S. research universities are now, once more, legally exploring psychedelics' vast potential for treating various physical and psychological problems. These studies have been approved based on a medical model that considers psychedelics' effects as primarily biochemical, but some are also addressing wider humanistic and transpersonal implications for research and praxis. These studies may challenge the prevailing medical model of psychopathology that not only reduces humans to just their biology but also has led to widespread medical treatments through formularies that predominantly constrict, rather than enhance, human potential. Psychedelics offer great potential as tools for researching elusive areas within humanistic and transpersonal psychology, as well as powerful ways to facilitate humanistic and transpersonal growth.