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The Journal of Positive Psychology
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The development of the Awe Experience Scale
(AWE-S): A multifactorial measure for a complex
David B. Yaden, Scott Barry Kaufman, Elizabeth Hyde, Alice Chirico, Andrea
Gaggioli, Jia Wei Zhang & Dacher Keltner
To cite this article: David B. Yaden, Scott Barry Kaufman, Elizabeth Hyde, Alice Chirico, Andrea
Gaggioli, Jia Wei Zhang & Dacher Keltner (2018): The development of the Awe Experience Scale
(AWE-S): A multifactorial measure for a complex emotion, The Journal of Positive Psychology
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2018.1484940
Published online: 18 Jul 2018.
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The development of the Awe Experience Scale (AWE-S): A multifactorial
measure for a complex emotion
David B. Yaden
, Scott Barry Kaufman
, Elizabeth Hyde
, Alice Chirico
, Andrea Gaggioli
, Jia Wei Zhang
and Dacher Keltner
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA;
Department of Psychology, Università Cattolica del Sacro
Cuore di Milano, Italy;
Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, USA;
Department of Psychology, University of
California, Berkeley, CA, USA
Awe is a complex emotion composed of an appraisal of vastness and a need for accommodation.
The purpose of this study was to develop a robust state measure of awe, the Awe Experience
Scale (AWE-S), based on the extant experimental literature. In study 1, participants (N = 501)
wrote about an intense moment of awe that they had experienced and then completed a survey
about their experience. Exploratory factor analysis revealed a 6-factor structure, including: altered
time perception (F1); self-diminishment (F2); connectedness (F3); perceived vastness (F4); physical
sensations (F5); need for accommodation (F6). Internal consistency was strong for each factor
(α≥.80). Study 2 conﬁrmed the 6-factor structure (N = 636) using ﬁt indices (CFI = .905;
RMSEA = .054). Each factor of the AWE-S is signiﬁcantly correlated with the awe items of the
modiﬁed Diﬀerential Emotions Scale (mDES) and Dispositional Positive Emotion Scale (D-PES).
Triggers, valence, and themes associated with awe experiences are reported.
Received 8 November 2017
Accepted 4 May 2018
Awe; emotion; scale;
experience; factor analysis
‘If you think of feelings you have when you are awed by
something –for example, knowing that elements in your
body trace to exploded stars –I call that a spiritual reac-
tion, speaking of awe and majesty, where words fail you.’
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
Awe has a long history in philosophy, particularly in
the domain of aesthetics and religious or spiritual experi-
ences. Both Edmund Burke’s(1759/1970 and Immanuel
Kant’s(1764/2007) analyses of the sublime as a compel-
ling experience that transcends one’s perception of
beauty to something more profound are couched in
terms that seem synonymous with the modern under-
standing of awe. Charles Darwin likewise discussed the
capacity for and importance of the emotion of ‘wonder,’
a word that is also closely related to awe. In The Varieties
of Religious Experience (1902/1936), William James
brought intense experiences of awe into the domain of
psychology. Later, Abraham Maslow provided a more
secularized and straightforwardly positive assessment of
awe, characterizing the capacity to experience this emo-
tion as an essential component of the good life: ‘The
most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity
to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the
basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even
ecstasy’(Maslow, 1970). However, to date, no scale cur-
rently exists that can capture the full depth and breadth
of the awe experience.
The contemporary psychological understanding of
awe comes largely from a foundational article written
by Keltner and Haidt (2003). According to the prototypi-
cal approach presented in this article, the following two
cognitive appraisals are central to awe experiences: the
perception of vastness and the need to mentally attempt
to accommodate this vastness into existing mental sche-
mas. While this deﬁnition is widespread in the ﬁeld, a
more robust deﬁnition may be necessary as additional
qualities of awe reveal more of its latent structure.
Importantly, vastness can be either perceptual (e.g., see-
ing the Grand Canyon) or conceptual (e.g., contemplating
eternity). Further, Keltner and Haidt (2003) describe various
‘themes’of awe stimuli, including: threat, beauty, ability,
virtue, and the supernatural. These themes may result from
triggers or interpretations of the awe experience and are
capable of inﬂuencing its hedonic tone. An aspect of awe
that is somewhat unusual for an emotion is that it can have
positive and/or negative valence. While negative experi-
ences of awe have been studied (e.g., Gordon et al., 2017;
Piﬀ, Dietze, Feinberg, Stancato, & Keltner, 2015), awe is
more often associated with a positive valence. While awe
was once more explicitly mingled with fear (e.g., Burke,
CONTACT David B. Yaden email@example.com
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
1759/1970), awe has come to have a generally more posi-
tive connotation (Bonner & Friedman, 2011). Thus, positive
forms of awe have received more experimental attention
(e.g., Chirico, Yaden, Riva, & Gaggioli, 2016; Chirico & Yaden,
2018; Shiota, Keltner, & Mossman, 2007).
Recent experimental research has explored the rela-
tionships between awe and a number of other psycholo-
gical traits as well as cognitive, aﬀective, and perceptual
processes. Awe has been shown to inﬂuence one’s atten-
tion (Prade & Saroglou, 2016; Sung & Yih, 2016) in a way
that tends to be consistent with Fredrickson’sBroaden
and Build theory of positive emotions (Fredrickson, 2001).
Other works have shown that awe expands perception of
time (Rudd, Vohs, & Aaker, 2012), enhances well- being
(Krause & Hayward, 2015) and leads to prosocial behaviors
(Piﬀet al., 2015), as well as decreases aggressive attitudes
(Yang, Yang, Bao, Liu, & Passmore, 2016). This emotion can
also aﬀect the way we perceive our bodies, thus leading
us to underestimate its size (van Elk, Karinen, Specker,
Stamkou, & Baas, 2016). Additionally, awe can temporarily
increase spiritual-type beliefs (Van Cappellen & Saroglou,
2012) and the tendency to ﬁnd intentionality in random
strings of numbers (Valdesolo & Graham, 2014). In terms
of personality, the tendency to experience awe is pre-
dicted by the personality trait of Openness to
Experience (Silvia, Fayn, Nusbaum, & Beaty, 2015). Awe
has even been discussed as an important motivator and
means to maintain interest in science education
(Valdesolo, Shtulman, & Baron, 2017)
However, experimental research on awe has been lim-
ited by the lack of a state measure of awe that is theoreti-
cally robust. In fact, we could not ﬁnd any validated state
scales for awe. Instead, the literature contains trait mea-
sures of one’s general tendency to experience awe that
include just a few items of interest. By robust, we mean
items that go beyond asking participants to explicitly
assess whether they have felt ‘awe.’For example, the item
‘did you feel awe?’is problematic, as participants may hold
adiﬀerent conceptualization of awe than do researchers.
We also take robust to mean incorporating items that tap
covered in empirical research –such as those described in
henextsection.Thesedimensions–or facets –of awe
likely vary with some degree of independence across var-
ious kinds of awe experiences. Further, because some
aspects of awe may uniquely moderate or mediate out-
comes of these experiences, a robust state measure of awe
necessitates inclusion of these facets.
Facets of awe
Researchers typically do not formally deﬁne the nature
of the aspects of awe that have been the subject of
empirical studies. Yet, the implication seems to be that
these aspects are assumed to be ‘facets’of awe. That is,
there exist theoretical dimensions of the awe construct
that have not previously been statistically diﬀeren-
tiated. Below, we brieﬂy review major aspects of awe
that have been investigated in previous experimental
research, such as vastness, the need for accommoda-
tion, altered time perception, self-diminishment, con-
nectedness, and physical sensations. The items that
we generated for the AWE-S are derived from the fol-
lowing aspects, or facets, of awe.
The perception of vastness is one of the two appraisal
dimensions described by Keltner & Haidt (2003).
Vastness can refer to perceptual vastness, as in viewing
an enormous mountain or a towering building –or it can
refer to conceptual vastness, as in hearing an idea with
enormous implications or meditating on the meaning of
eternity (Yaden et al., 2016). Items intended to measure
vastness include: ‘I feel the presence of something greater
than myself’(Piﬀet al., 2015). In laboratory settings, a
variety of diﬀerent methods have been used to elicit
awe through the perception of vastness. Usually, images
or videos of natural scenery are shown to research parti-
cipants (e.g., Prade & Saroglou, 2016; Silvia et al., 2015;
Zhang & Keltner, 2016). Some studies involve actually
taking participants outdoors and exposing them to
sweeping views of natural scenery. For example, Piﬀ
et al. (2015) brought participants out of the lab to view a
grove of very tall eucalyptus trees to induce awe. More
recently(Chirico et al., 2016; Chirico et al., 2017), recom-
mended and utilized virtual reality (VR) to successfully
induce awe by simulating vastness in virtual space with
panoramic views of nature.
Need for accommodation
The need for accommodation is the second appraisal
dimension described by Keltner & Haidt (2003).
Accommodation involves changes to existing mental
schemas in order to mentally process and integrate an
experience. Some have argued that this aspect of awe is
too vaguely deﬁned and has therefore been operatio-
nalized in several diﬀerent ways in the research litera-
ture (Sundararajan, 2002). For instance, there exist
measures of need for accommodation, as reported in
Schurtz et al. (2012), but they have not been validated.
However, one example of an item that has been used to
measure the need for accommodation as a trait is: ‘I
seek out experiences that challenge my understanding
of the world’(Shiota, Keltner, & John, 2006), though this
item may have some culturally speciﬁc connotations
(Razavi, Zhang, Hekiert, Yoo, & Howell, 2016). A study
2D. B. YADEN ET AL.
found that the need for cognitive closure negatively
correlates with the need for accommodation in awe
experience (Shiota et al., 2007). Other components of
the need for accommodation have also been examined,
such as the degree of novelty one experiences, as well
as the degree to which one’s expectations have been
violated upon experiencing awe (Lorini & Castelfranchi,
2007). Finally, the degree of uncertainty one feels has
also been examined as a proxy for the need for accom-
modation dimension (Valdesolo & Graham, 2014).
Awe has been shown to temporarily alter time percep-
tion. In one study, in which awe was induced in partici-
pants by asking them to describe past awe experiences
in writing, participants reported that time had moved
more slowly than did participants who did not write
about or re-experience awe (Rudd et al., 2012).
Alterations to time perception during awe experiences
have been measured with items such as, ‘Time is
expanded’(Rudd et al., 2012). This perceptual change
marks a distinction between awe and other emotions, as
alterations to such fundamental faculties of conscious-
ness are unusual in the emotion literature. Flow
(Csikszentmihalyi, 1997) is another example of a mental
state (not an emotion) in which the sense of self and
time is altered, although in ﬂow time appears to speed
up, whereas in awe time typically subjectively slows.
Awe has also been shown to diminish, or reduce the
salience of, certain aspects of the self. For example, on
the level of the bodily self, awe can reduce the sense of
one’s own body size (van Elk et al., 2016). In terms of
one’s subjective sense of self, awe has been shown to
reduce one’s‘being and goals’(Piﬀet al., 2015). Items
used to measure this include ‘I feel small or insigniﬁcant’
(Piﬀet al., 2015).”Though deep theoretical issues arise
from claims about self-loss –one might ask: what is the
self at all? –this brute phenomenological self-report is
common in the theoretical and qualitative literature on
awe (Yaden, Haidt, Hood, Vago, & Newberg, 2017).
Additionally, measures in awe research that ask partici-
pants if their self was in some way diminished have been
shown to be reliable (e.g., Piﬀet al., 2015). This aspect of
awe has been shown to mediate its relationship with
humility (Stellar et al., 2018).
Feelings of connection to other people and the environ-
ment beyond one’s self feature in experiences of awe
(Stellar et al., 2017; Yaden et al., 2017). When awe is
induced, participants frequently report a deeper sense of
connection with other people and things around them
(Krause & Hayward, 2015;Piﬀet al., 2015). Items used to
measure this sense of connection include, ‘I feel part of
some greater entity’(Piﬀet al., 2015). What one connects
to can include a number of diﬀerent entities, though often
they are considered somehow ‘greater’than one’sself
(e.g., one’s culture, all of humanity, religious or spiritual
entities, or even all of existence). This should also be
subject to further empirical research, but measures used
to tap this aspect of awe have been shown to be stable
and reliable (Piﬀet al., 2015). This aspect of awe has been
found to increase collective engagnement across indivi-
dualist as well as collectivist cultures (Bai et al., 2017).
Awe causes predictable changes to one’s physiology.
Several autonomic changes associated with awe have
been recorded. Speciﬁcally, a freezing response to awe
stimuli was measured at a psychophysiological level
(Chirico, Cipresso, & Gaggioli, 2016; Chirco et al., 2017)
and at a behavioral level (Joye & Dewitte, 2016).
Moreover, the phenomenon of ‘goosebumps’and chills
have been demonstrated to co-occur during some
experiences related to awe (Algoe & Haidt, 2009;
Maruskin, Thrash, & Elliot, 2012; Schurtz et al., 2012).
Additionally, in the tradition of the facial action coding
of emotions (Ekman & Friesen, 2003), awe has been
studied in terms of its associated facial expressions.
Speciﬁcally, research has identiﬁed facial expressions
associated with awe such as widened eyes and a
dropped jaw (Shiota, Campos, & Keltner, 2003). Notably,
bodily changes such as these have typically been
observed using physiological measurement equipment,
rather than inquired about via self-report measures.
The present studies
The present studies sought to test whether the facets or
aspects of awe described above, which have been dis-
cussed in theoretical writings and operationalized in
various ad hoc measures used in empirical research, are
in fact factors describing a latent variable of a robust
mental state, or complex emotion, of awe. Based on our
review of the literature summarized above, we hypothe-
sized that we would discover a 6-factor solution describ-
ing experiences of awe. To test this, we generated items
based on previous theoretical writings, trait measures of
awe, and ad hoc awe measures used in experimental
studies. These aspects of awe co-occur with the experi-
ence of the emotion and therefore cannot accurately be
considered ‘outcomes,’which would occur as antece-
dents to the emotion. Note that the items were gener-
ated from facets of awe in the literature and it was not
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 3
our intent to attempt an exhaustive account of aspects
of awe. This measure would be the ﬁrst state measure of
awe that accounts for granular subjective components of
the complex emotion. Lastly, our items were intended to
tap each of the hypothesized factors without explicitly
mentioning the word ‘awe.’
We compared the resulting items with other awe
measures, the modiﬁed Diﬀerential Emotions Scale
(mDES) and the awe subscale of the Dispositional
Positive Emotion Scale (D-PES), to establish initial con-
vergent validity. We also explored a measure of person-
ality (BFAS) as well as other theorized aspects such as
triggers, valence, themes, and degree of intensity.
Study 1 –exploratory factor analysis
In Study 1, we administered items related to the experience
of awe to participants using an online survey platform.
Participants were ﬁrst asked to remember and then write
about a recent, intense awe experience –amethodthathas
been shown to be an eﬀective way to elicit memories of
emotion experiences (Rudd et al., 2012;Shiotaetal.,2007).
Participants then answered a battery of items about their
awe experience. Following data collection, we performed
Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) on these items.
Participants were recruited through an online invitation
to participate in the study on Amazon’s Mechanical
Turk (M-Turk). The link was provided along with the
description: ‘This research study is designed to gain a
better understanding of awe.’Participants agreed to an
informed consent document and conﬁrmed that they
were over 18 years of age. Participants were compen-
sated about one dollar for their participation. The sur-
vey was administered using Qualtrics, a secure online
survey distribution and data collection program. This
study is part of a larger survey; only the subset of
measures relevant to this study are reported here. The
Institutional Review Board at the University of
Pennsylvania approved this study.
Participant characteristics. Participants (N = 501)
were adults (over 18) drawn from the U.S. and were
mostly white (67.3%, n = 227; Asian 17.2%, n = 86; black
6.4%, n = 32; and Hispanic 6.4%, n = 17), Christian
(46.1%, n = 231; atheist 13.4%, n = 67; Hindu 12.6%,
n = 63), educated (all were at least high school edu-
cated; 47%, n = 239 had bachelor degree), and
balanced between females and males (Male = 51.5%,
n = 258; Female = 48.3%, 242; other = .2%, 1).
Participants were asked to identify a recent, intense
awe experience using directions adapted from Piﬀ
et al. (2015). Speciﬁcally, the instructions read: ‘Please
take a few minutes to think about a particular time, fairly
recently, when you felt intense awe.’After identifying
their awe experience, participants were asked to write
about it. The next section of the instructions read: ‘Now
that you have chosen a SINGLE experience of intense awe,
please describe your experience in about 2 full paragraphs
in the box below. While you are writing, please focus as
much as possible on the experience itself, rather than
what led up to it, what happened afterwards, or your
interpretation of the experience. Try to be as descriptive
and speciﬁc as possible.’
The Awe Experience Scale. Participants responded to 61
items about aspects of their awe experience.
Participants were asked speciﬁcally to answer regarding
the single awe experience they had just described in
writing. Each item was rated on a 7-point scale
(1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Moderately Disagree,
3 = Somewhat Disagree, 4 = Neutral, 5 = Somewhat
Agree, 6 = Moderately Agree, 7 = Strongly Agree).
Other scales and items to establish convergent valid-
ity and to perform exploratory analyses were also
included in this survey, but these responses were
pooled for analysis in Study 2 and are described there.
Study 1 focused on exploring the factor structure of the
Exploratory factor analysis (EFA)
Factor solutions were generated using SAS with a Promax
rotation and an Equamax pre-rotation. The oblique pro-
max rotation method was chosen due to the assumption
that factors would signiﬁcantly positively correlate with
one another and the equamax pre-rotation was included
in order to preserve variance (Gorsuch, 1983). Parallel
Analysis (PA; Horn, 1965), Minimum Average Partialing
(MAP; Velicer, 1976), and Scree tests (Cattel, 1966)were
used in order to estimate the number of factors and
standards of stability and reliability were applied to drop
error factors and arrive at an adequate factor solution.
EFA was conducted. PA recommended 9 factors, MAP
recommended 7 factors, and Scree Analysis suggested
9 factors. When computed, factor solutions with 8
4D. B. YADEN ET AL.
factors or higher contained error factors due to fewer
than two items loading on these factors. A 7-factor
solution produced an error factor due to inadequate
alpha (α= .< .7), composed of three items. Twelve items
did not load on any factors and two items loaded on
multiple factors; these items were dropped. A 6-factor
solution therefore provided the maximum number of
stable and reliable factors.
Items were trimmed in order to reduce participant
burden. A state measure that is relatively brief that can
be taken quickly is desirable as the duration of the state
in question may be somewhat ﬂeeting and disturbed
by the process of providing answers to a measure, so
brevity is a virtue in this context and for this reason we
dropped error factors rather than adding items. On the
reduced item set, the top ﬁve loading items from each
factor were retained. The six-factor solution was then
re-computed on SAS using the same pre-rotation and
rotation (hyperplane count was optimized at K = 3). On
the reduced 30-item set, PA recommended 6 factors,
MAP recommended 9 factors, and Scree analysis recom-
mended 6 factors. The seventh factor was dropped as it
contained only two items, a common criterion for drop-
The AWE-S therefore includes 30 items total, with 5
items per factor. Each factor showed strong internal
reliability. Standardized alphas were as follows: (F1)
altered time perception α= .91; (F2) self-diminishment
α= .89; (F3) connectedness α= .87; (F4) vastness
α= .85; (F5) physical sensations α= .81; (F6) need for
accommodation α= .80. The scale total also demon-
strated strong reliability (α= .93).
Factor loadings were good (Table 1), as all were
between .4 and .8, with the exception of two items in
factor 1, which were high (.86). However, the semantic
diversity between these items is notable: ‘I noticed time
slowing’and ‘I sensed things momentarily slow down.’
While both items clearly refer to the concept of time
dilation, the high factor loadings were likely not due to
semantic factors such as similar terms or phrasing.
Subscales demonstrated some skew and kurtosis, which
was expected because the prompt asked for an awe-inspir-
ing experience, so we expected scores on awe-related
items would be somewhat high. However, skewness and
kurtosis indicators were within acceptable range (> |.2|).
Means, skewness, and kurtosis are reported in Table 2.
EFA on these items revealed six stable and reliable
factors with strong internal consistency. This factor
structure and reliability remained consistent after
items were trimmed to ease participant burden.
Study 2 –conﬁrmatory factor analysis
In this study, we conﬁrmed the factor structure of the
AWE-S in a separate sample. We then compared the
AWE-S with other measures of awe. We also explored
themes, triggers, valence, and intensity, each of which
has been discussed in the theoretical literature.
The methods used in Study 2 were similar to Study 1. A
Qualtrics survey was distributed using M-Turk.
Table 1. AWE-S item loadings.
I sensed things momentarily slow
0.86 . . . . .
I noticed time slowing. 0.86 . . . . .
I felt my sense of time change. 0.78 . . . . .
I experienced the passage of time
0.76 . . . . .
I had the sense that a moment
lasted longer than usual.
0.68 . . . . .
I felt that my sense of self was
. 0.79 . . . .
I felt my sense of self shrink. . 0.76 . . . .
I experienced a reduced sense of
. 0.76 . . . .
I felt my sense of self become
. 0.75 . . . .
I felt small compared to everything
. 0.6 . . . .
I had the sense of being connected
. . 0.77 . . .
I felt a sense of communion with all
. . 0.73 . . .
I experienced a sense of oneness
with all things.
. . 0.69 . . .
I felt closely connected to humanity. . . 0.67 . . .
I had a sense of complete
. . 0.67 . . .
I felt that I was in the presence of
. . . 0.76 . .
I experienced something greater
. . . 0.75 . .
I felt in the presence of greatness. . . . 0.71 . .
I perceived something that was
much larger than me.
. . . 0.71 . .
I perceived vastness. . . . 0.46 . .
I felt my jaw drop. . . . . 0.79 .
I had goosebumps. . . . . 0.66 .
I gasped. . . . . 0.63 .
I had chills. . . . . 0.59 .
I felt my eyes widen. . . . . 0.53 .
I felt challenged to mentally process
what I was experiencing
. . . . . 0.74
I found it hard to comprehend the
experience in full.
. . . . . 0.68
I felt challenged to understand the
. . . . . 0.62
I struggled to take in all that I was
experiencing at once
. . . . . 0.54
I tried to understand the magnitude
of what I was experiencing.
. . . . . 0.46
n= 501. Loadings less than .40 are not shown.
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 5
Participant characteristics. Study participants (N = 636)
were recruited using the same methods as in Study 1. A link
to an online survey about awe on Qualtrics was posted on
Amazon’sMechanicalTurk.Thissample had similar char-
acteristics to those of Study 1 –Male (51%, 325; female
48.7%, 310; other .2%, 1), White (72.2%, 460; black 10.5%,
67; Asian 7.7%, 49; Hispanic 5.5%, 35), Christian (46.5, 296;
none 15.9%, 101; agnostic 15.1%, 96; atheist 12.4%, 79) and
otherwise similar to those in Study 1.
In this study, we administered the same prompt for
participants to write about their experiences of awe
followed by the 30 items of the AWE-S that were iden-
tiﬁed in Study 1. We also administered the modiﬁed
Diﬀerential Emotion Scale (mDES), the Dispositional
Positive Emotion Scale (D-PES), Big Five Personality
(BFAS), as well as exploratory items for other awe
aspects (theme, valence, triggers).
In Study 2, participants responded to the 30 AWE-S items
about aspects of their awe experience identiﬁed in Study 1.
Again, participants were asked speciﬁcally to answer
described in writing on the same 7-point Likert scale
described in Study 1. Again, the overall scale showed a
high internal consistency (Cronbach Alpha = .92). Each
scale also displayed a strong reliability: (F1) altered time
perception α= .85; (F2) self-diminishment α=.81;(F3)
connectedness α= .89; (F4) vastness α= .88; (F5) physical
sensations α= .89; (F6) need for accommodation α= .81.
Descriptive statistics for factors were similar to sample 1
(see Table 3).
The modiﬁed diﬀerential emotion scale (mDES)
We administered the mDES (Fredrickson, Tugade,
Waugh, & Larkin, 2003), a scale that measures the
degree to which one has felt diﬀerent emotions over
the past 24 hours. Each item presents three related
words that signify a cluster of emotions (e.g., ‘awe,
wonder, astonishment’or ‘serene, content, peaceful’).
To establish the convergent and divergent validity of
the AWE-S, we slightly modiﬁed the instructions of this
scale to make it a state measure referring speciﬁcally to
the awe experience participants had described in writ-
ing. We expected that the awe cluster of emotions from
the mDES would correlate highest with the AWE-S.
Participants were pooled from study 1 and study 2
resulting in a sample size of (N = 1137). This scale
captures the two main clusters of the aﬀective experi-
ence: the positive and the negative. Thus, 11 items are
devoted to measuring positive emotional experiences,
while 10 items assess negative emotional states. In this
sample, the positive emotions subscale showed good
internal consistency (Cronbach’s Alpha = .87) and the
negative emotions subscale also displayed high reliabil-
ity (Cronbach’s Alpha = .93). See scale descriptive sta-
tistics in Table 4.
Table 3. Descriptive statistics for each AWE-S factor in sample 2.
Mean Std. Deviation Variance Skewness Kurtosis
Factors Statistic Std. Error Statistic Statistic Statistic Std. Error Statistic Std. Error
F1 Time 4.83 0.06 1.46 2.14 −0.71 0.10 0.15 0.19
F2 Self-loss 4.35 0.06 1.60 2.56 −0.33 0.10 −0.72 0.19
F3 Connectedness 4.99 0.06 1.43 2.04 −0.78 0.10 0.24 0.19
F4 Vastness 5.63 0.05 1.22 1.50 −1.21 0.10 1.62 0.19
F5 Physiological 5.02 0.05 1.36 1.84 −0.67 0.10 0.06 0.19
F6 Accommodation 4.76 0.06 1.40 1.95 −0.45 0.10 −0.44 0.19
Total AWE-S 4.93 0.04 0.98 0.96 −0.55 0.10 0.50 0.19
Table 2. Descriptive statistics for AWE-S factors in sample 1.
Mean Std. Deviation Variance Skewness Kurtosis
Factors Statistic Std. Error Statistic Statistic Statistic Std. Error Statistic Std. Error
F1 Time 4.83 0.07 1.48 2.20 −0.73 0.11 0.07 0.22
F2 Self-loss 4.63 0.07 1.53 2.33 −0.56 0.11 −0.38 0.22
F3 Connectedness 5.03 0.06 1.33 1.76 −0.67 0.11 0.15 0.22
F4 Vastness 5.56 0.05 1.19 1.42 −0.97 0.11 0.87 0.22
F5 Physiological 4.85 0.06 1.36 1.86 −0.58 0.11 −0.04 0.22
F6 Accommodation 4.99 0.06 1.26 1.59 −0.62 0.11 0.05 0.22
Total AWE-S 4.98 0.05 0.10 0.10 −0.65 0.11 0.49 0.22
6D. B. YADEN ET AL.
The dispositional positive emotion scale (D-PES)
We administered the D-PES (Shiota et al., 2003). The
D-PES is a trait measure that includes subscales of
one’s tendency to experience a number of diﬀerent
positive emotions –awe, joy, contentedness, pride,
humor –in daily life. This trait measure provides
some additional convergent and divergent validity of
the AWE-S, as we expected AWE-S scores would corre-
late with the awe subscale of the D-PES. This was
administered in study 2 (N = 636). In this sample,
Cronbach’s alpha for each scale was: joy (6 items),
0.89; contentment (6 items), 0.95; pride (4 items*),
0.78; love (6 items), 0.88; compassion (5 items), 0.90;
amusement (5 items), 0.83; awe (6 items), 0.82. See
scale descriptive statistics in Table 5.
The big ﬁve aspect scales (BFAS)
To examine which personality factors were associated with
awe experiences, we included a Big-5 measure of person-
ality. We expected, based on previous ﬁndings, that the
AWE-S would correlate with Openness to Experience. This
scale was administered only with study 2 (N = 636).
Other awe aspects
Other items were also administered, in order to assess:
theorized ‘themes’that characterized participants’awe
experiences (i.e., Beauty, Threat, Ability, Virtue,
Supernatural), triggers of the experience (e.g., natural
scenery, witnessing great skill, being in the presence of a
leader, etc.), valence including positive (Scale of 1–4;
M = 3.57, SD = .79), negative (Scale of 1–4; Mean = 1.21,
Std Dev = .67), and a 7-point measure ranging from
negative to positive (Mean = 6.34, Std Dev = 1.360), and
the overall intensity (Scale of 1–5; Mean = 4.20, Std
Dev = .845) of their awe experience. These were single-
item measures included for exploratory purposes.
Conﬁrmatory factor analysis
We performed Conﬁrmatory Factor Analysis (CFA). To
test the ﬁt of the 30-item 6-factor model for CFA, we
used EQS multivariate software to compute
Comparative Fit Index (CFI) and Root Mean-Square
Error of Approximation (RMSEA).
Table 4. Descriptive statistics of mDES: mean, standard deviation, skewness and kurtosis.
Mean Std. Deviation Variance Skewness Kurtosis
Factors Statistic Std. Error Statistic Statistic Statistic Std. Error Statistic Std. Error
Amuse 2.3 0.031 1.046 1.093 0.21 0.073 −1.16 0.145
Angry 1.31 0.022 0.736 0.541 2.371 0.073 4.642 0.145
Ashamed 1.27 0.02 0.689 0.475 2.559 0.073 5.614 0.145
Awe 3.59 0.021 0.703 0.494 −1.816 0.073 3.01 0.145
Scared 1.53 0.027 0.914 0.835 1.571 0.073 1.216 0.145
Serene 3.06 0.029 0.989 0.979 −0.75 0.073 −0.537 0.145
Glad 3.26 0.028 0.935 0.874 −1.115 0.073 0.234 0.145
Disgust 1.29 0.022 0.729 0.532 2.625 0.073 5.921 0.145
Grateful 3.23 0.028 0.95 0.902 −1.021 0.073 −0.033 0.145
Embarrassed 1.39 0.023 0.783 0.613 1.932 0.073 2.655 0.145
Hope 3.12 0.027 0.924 0.854 −0.813 0.073 −0.256 0.145
Hate 1.29 0.022 0.729 0.532 2.565 0.073 5.533 0.145
Inspiration 3.24 0.027 0.917 0.841 −1.097 0.073 0.317 0.145
Guilt 1.32 0.022 0.739 0.547 2.332 0.073 4.452 0.145
Interest 3.27 0.025 0.84 0.705 −0.957 0.073 0.169 0.145
Sad 1.36 0.024 0.794 0.631 2.173 0.073 3.617 0.145
Love 2.91 0.031 1.033 1.068 −0.519 0.073 −0.925 0.145
Content 1.34 0.023 0.771 0.594 2.14 0.073 3.381 0.145
Proud 2.68 0.031 1.036 1.073 −0.222 0.073 −1.115 0.145
Stress 1.67 0.029 0.988 0.976 1.209 0.073 0.119 0.145
Tenderness 2.86 0.03 1.01 1.021 −0.473 0.073 −0.885 0.145
Table 5.. Descriptive statistics of D-PES: mean, standard deviation, skewness and kurtosis.
Mean Std. Dev Variance Skewness Kurtosis
Factor Statistic Std. Error Statistic Statistic Statistic Std. Error Statistic Std. Error
Awe 4.89 0.04 1.08 1.16 −0.42 0.10 −0.01 0.19
Joy 4.62 0.05 1.25 1.56 −0.40 0.10 −0.30 0.19
Contentment 4.84 0.06 1.42 2.03 −0.74 0.10 −0.04 0.19
Pride 4.96 0.04 1.09 1.20 −0.57 0.10 0.42 0.19
Love 4.63 0.05 1.24 1.54 −0.38 0.10 −0.38 0.19
Compassion 5.47 0.04 1.12 1.25 −1.02 0.10 1.39 0.19
Humor 4.78 0.05 1.20 1.43 −0.50 0.10 0.06 0.19
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 7
Conﬁrmatory factor analysis
CFI was adequate (.905) and RMSEA was good (.054),
with 90% conﬁdence intervals of .051 and .058. In order
to conﬁrm that the six-factor solution represented the
best ﬁt, we then calculated a 1-factor solution, which
showed inadequate ﬁt: CFI = .481 and RMSEA = .125.
Therefore, the 6-factor model of the AWE-S demon-
strated robust and superior ﬁt.
Inter-factor correlations. We pooled the samples from
Study 1 and Study 2 and calculated inter-factor correla-
tions. All factors showed moderate to strong positive
correlations with one another (Table 6).
We conducted initial validation of the AWE-S by com-
paring it with two other scales that measure a number
of emotions, including awe. We slightly modiﬁed one
trait measure (mDES) to make it a state measure, and
we included a trait measure (D-PES).
mDES. The mDES was included in both samples, so
participant data was pooled. Importantly, each item of
the mDES includes three similar emotions (e.g., the awe
item included ‘awe,’‘wonder,’and ‘astonishment’).
In terms of positive emotions, the AWE-S total was
positively and signiﬁcantly correlated with every positive
emotion cluster (Table 7). Interestingly, the AWE-S total
was slightly more correlated with some positive emotion
clusters (e.g., ‘inspired, uplifted, elevated’and ‘grateful,
wonder, astonishment.’However, no other positive emo-
tion cluster was signiﬁcantly correlated with all six factor
of the AWE-S, except for the awe cluster.
In terms of the mDES positive emotions, after control-
ling for age, gender, education, and SES, the only inde-
pendent predictors of the AWE-S were ‘awe, wonder,
astonishment’(β=.12,p<.01),‘serene, content, peace-
ful’(β=.09,p<.05),‘grateful, appreciative, thankful’
(β=.11,p<.01),‘inspired, uplifted, elevated’(β=.09,
p < .05), ‘interested, alert, curious’(β=.09,p<.01),‘love,
direction ‘glad, happy, joyful’(β= -.18, p < .01),
However, the moderate correlation between the ‘awe,
wonder, astonishment’cluster and the AWE-S is likely due
to a ceiling eﬀect. The ‘awe, wonder, astonishment’item
of the mDES was outside of the acceptable range of
skewness (.494) and kurtosis (3.01), thus accounting for
the constrained variance observed. A histogram of
responses to this item demonstrates its non-normal dis-
tribution (Figure 1).
In terms of negative emotions, the ‘stressed, nervous,
overwhelmed’and the ‘scared, fearful, afraid’clusters
were signiﬁcantly positively correlated with the total of
the AWE-S (Table 8). After controlling for age, gender,
education, and SES, the only independent predictor of
the AWE-S was the mDES item, ‘stressed, nervous, over-
whelmed’(β= .15, p < . 01). This suggests that awe is a
primarily positive emotion with the possible exception of
feeling stressed, nervous, overwhelmed in response to
the experience, and speaks to awe as a unique state of
being that combines exaltation with fear/reverence
D-PES. We also included a trait measure of emotions
that includes an item about one’s dispositional ten-
dency to experience awe. We found that the AWE-S
Table 7. Correlations of AWE-S total and factors with mDES positive emotions.
Factors AWE-S Global score Time Self-loss Connection Vastness Physical Accommodation
Awe, Wonder, Astonishment .23** .10** .07* .19** .41** .19** .09**
Inspired, Uplifted, Elevated .28** .13** .06 .39** .43** .19** .04
Serene, Content, Peaceful .24** .14** .09** .40** .36** .07* .01
Grateful, Appreciative, Thankful .28** .16** .03 .42** .39** .18** .05
Love, Closeness, Trust .27** .21** −.01 .47** .26** .19** .05
Interested, Alert, Curious .19** .09** .04 .13** .26** .17** .14**
Hopeful, Optimistic, Encouraged .26** .15** .00 .42** .34** .18** .07*
Tender, Gentle, Warmhearted .26** .17** .03 .45** .28** .16** .05
Amused, Fun-Loving, Silly .12** .09** −.02 .26** .03 .17** −.01
Proud, Conﬁdent, Self-assured .15** .13** −.06* .32** .12** .16** −.02
Glad, Happy, Joyful .18** .07* −.06* .33** .32** .18** −.05
n= 1137; ** = p < .01, * = p < .05
Table 6. Inter-factor correlations of AWE-S factors.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
F1. Time -
F2. Self-loss .44** -
F3. Connection .49** .32** -
F4. Vastness .39** .42** .55** -
F5. Physical .43** .31** .35** .43** -
F6. Accommodation .44** .47** .26** .38** .41** -
n= 1137; ** = p < .001
8D. B. YADEN ET AL.
total was signiﬁcantly positively related to all of the
other positive emotions. The relationships between
the total and each factor of the AWE-S and the awe
subscale of the D-PES were stronger than for any other
emotion (Table 9). In regards to AWE-S, the correlation
with D-PES Awe was stronger than any of the other
After controlling for age, gender, education, and SES,
the only independent predictors of the AWE-S total
were the Awe (β= .31, p < .01) and Compassion
(β= .18, p < .01) subscales of the D-PES.
Intensity. An item used to gauge how intense partici-
pants considered their awe experience to be showed
signiﬁcant positive correlations with the AWE-S total
and for each factor (Table 10). This suggests that higher
scores on the AWE-S generally mean the experience
was more subjectively intense.
Other aspects of awe
We explored the relationship between the AWE-S and
several other single-item measures to investigate other
theorized aspects of awe.
Valence. While participants were asked only to
report a ‘recent, intense’awe experience, awe experi-
ences were reported as overwhelmingly positive
Themes. Awe is associated with a number of themes
potentially related to the experience (Keltner & Haidt,
2003), including beauty, ability, virtue, threat, and the
Degree of Agreement
Kurtosis of mDES Awe Item
Figure 1. Skewness and Kurtosis of mDES Awe Item (N= 1137). Y-axis shows frequency of sample as a percentage and x-axis shows
Likert response options for the item.
Table 8. Correlations of AWE-S total and factors with mDES negative emotions.
_Total Time Self-loss Connection Vastness Physical Accommodation
Stressed, Nervous, Overwhelmed .13** .15** .13** −.06* −.07* .14** .22**
Scared, Fearful, Afraid .07* .01** .12** −.09** −.14** .09** .18**
Angry, Irritated, Annoyed .04 .08** .14** −.07** −.21** .04 .14**
Disgust, Distaste, Revulsion .05 .08** .15** −.06 −.17** .06 .12**
Sad, Downhearted, Unhappy .04 .08** .14** −.08** −.21** .04 .16**
Ashamed, Humiliated, Disgraced .02 .06* .12** −.03 −.20** .01 .09**
Embarrassed, Self-conscious, Blushing .05 .06* .12** .01 −.16** .01 .12**
Hate, Distrust, Suspicious .03 .06* .12** −.05 −.20** .04 .10**
Contemptuous, Scornful, Disdainful .02 .06* .13** −.06* −.22** .02 .11**
Guilty, Repentant, Blameworthy .04 .08** .11** −.02 −.13** .00 .09**
n= 1137; ** = p < .01, * = p < . 05
Table 9. Correlations of D-PES with AWE-S total and factors.
Factors Total AWE-S F1 Time
Self_loss F3 Connection F4 Vastness F5 Physical F6 Accommodation
Awe .38** .28** .17** .43** .30** .23** .19**
Joy .26** .17** .05 .36** .21** .20** .12**
Content .17** .12** −.04 .27** .14** .14** .09*
Pride .20** .19** −.02 .26** .11** .19** .10*
Love .17** .09* .00 .30** .13** .15** .09*
Compassion .31** .18** .14** .32** .32** .23** .10*
Humor .15** .12** .06 .15** .07 .13** .09*
n= 636; ** = p < . 01, * = p < .05
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 9
supernatural. Participants reported experiences ﬁtting
each of these categories, though beauty was the most
frequent (Figure 3).
Triggers. While awe themes may relate to triggers or
interpretations, we asked participants to speciﬁcally
indicate what elicited their experience of awe
(Figure 4). We found, echoing the ﬁnding that beauty
was the most frequent theme, that natural scenery
was described as the most frequent trigger. We pro-
vided an ‘other’option with the opportunity to write
in a response if the desired response did not appear
on our list. Notably, a number of these write-in
responses referred to childbirth –future studies of
awe should list childbirth as a trigger for intense
Big ﬁve personality. Finally, we examined the relation-
ship between the AWE-S and Big-5 personality factors
(Table 11). At the factor level, AWE-S was signiﬁcantly
correlated with Agreeableness, Conscientiousness,
Extraversion, and Openness to Experience. The only inde-
pendent predictors of AWE-S at the factor level, however,
were Neuroticism (β= .10, p < . 05), Agreeableness (β=.11,
p < .05), and, especially, Openness/Intellect (β=.18,
p < .01). At the aspect level, AWE-S was positively
Table 10. Intensity of awe experience: correlations between the
degree of intensity of the awe experience and AWE-S total and
AWE-S Total 0.37**
F1 Time 0.26**
F2 Self-loss 0.12**
F3 Connectedness 0.25**
F4 Vastness 0.36**
F5 Physical 0.37**
F6 Accommodation 0.25**
n= 636; ** = p < . 01, * = p < .05
Valence of Awe Experiences
Figure 2. Valence of Awe. n= 636.
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70%
Themes of Awe
Figure 3. Themes of Awe. n= 636.
10 D. B. YADEN ET AL.
correlated with compassion, politeness, industriousness,
orderliness, enthusiasm, intellect, and openness, and
negatively correlated with volatility. The only independent
predictors of AWE-S at the aspect level were Withdrawal
(β= .16, p < .05) and Openness (β=.19),p<.01).
A 6-factor structure for the Awe Experience Scale
(AWE-S), a robust state measure of awe that taps several
aspects of awe identiﬁed in previous empirical and
theoretical work, was revealed in two online surveys.
In Study 1, Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) of 61 items
administered to online participants (N = 501), revealed
a 6-factor structure. Items were pruned to 30 items and
EFA was recomputed. The 6-factor structure held, with
good internal validity for each factor. In Study 2, the 30-
item AWE-S was administered to participants (N = 636)
using the same methods as in Study 1. Conﬁrmatory
Factor Analysis (CFA) showed that the 6-factor model
has a robust ﬁt. In general, a 6-factor solution with high
internal reliability was found through Exploratory and
Conﬁrmatory Factor Analysis.
To establish convergent, divergent, and construct
validity, the AWE-S (which does not contain the word
‘awe’in any of its items) was compared with the modiﬁed
Diﬀerential Emotion Scale (mDES) and the Dispositional
Positive Emotion Scale (D-PES). The awe item of the mDES
(awe, wonder, astonishment) was signiﬁcantly correlated
with every factor of the AWE-S and the total, though some
other clusters of emotions were more strongly related to
individual factors. While the fact that the mDES involves
multiple emotions per item limits the conclusions that can
be drawn, it is still a good indicator that the AWE-S and
the mDES awe item were signiﬁcantly correlated. The
D-PES is a measure of the tendency to experience a
number of diﬀerent emotions, but the fact that it is a
trait measure also limits our interpretation. Nevertheless,
0% 10% 20% 30%
Grand Theory or Idea
Building or Monument
Encounter with God
Triggers of Awe
Figure 4. Triggers of Awe. n= 636.
Table 11. Correlation of personality with AWE-S total and factors.
Factors Total AWE_S F1 Time
Self_loss F3 Connection F4 Vastness F5 Physical F6 Accommodation
Neuroticism −.05 −.06 .10* −.09* −.07* −.05 −.04
Withdrawal .01 −.02 .14** −.06 −.01 −.02 −.03
Volatility −.09* −.03* .04 −.11** −.12** −.07 .06
Agreeableness .20** .07 .08* .20** .33** .16** .05
Compassion .22** .12** .08* .23** .32** .16** .05
Politeness .15** .01 .07 .14** .28** .13** .04
Conscientiousness .13** .1-* .00 .12** .14** .16** .05
Industriousness .11** .09* −.03 .13** .11** .15** .05
Orderliness .12** .09* .03 .08 .12** >13** .05
Extraversion .10* .13** −.13** .19** .09* .13** .01
Enthusiasm .14** .09* −.08 .24** .18** .18** −.01
Assertiveness .02 .12** −.14** .09* −.02 .04 .02
Openness/Intellect .24** .18** .08 .19** .31** .12** .13**
Openness .25** .17** .11** .23** .35** .13** .10*
Intellect .16* .15** .02 .11** .19** .07 .13**
Note. n = 636; ** = p < . 01, * = p < .05
THE JOURNAL OF POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 11
the AWE-S and each of its factors were signiﬁcantly and
strongly associated with the awe subscale of the D-PES.
Lastly, the AWE-S and its factors were strongly correlated
with the overall intensity of the awe experience, as indi-
cated by a single item measure of intensity. We believe
the AWE-S demonstrated adequate convergent, diver-
gent, and construct validity.
We also reported analyses of other aspects of awe.
We found that spontaneous reports of awe were often
overwhelmingly positive, with some (but much fewer)
neutral or negatively valenced experiences of awe. In
terms of themes, there was a spread of responses
across beauty, virtue, skill, threat, and supernatural –
but beauty was the most frequent. An item about
triggers provides more speciﬁc information in this
regard, showing that natural scenery was the most
frequent elicitor of awe. We report correlations with
aspects of personality, replicating previous ﬁndings
that awe is associated with Openness to Experience
(Shiota et al., 2006; Silvia et al., 2015). However, our
ﬁndings extended this prior connection between awe
and Openness to Experience by suggesting that awe is
uniquely associated with a tendency toward engage-
ment with perception, fantasy, aesthetics, and emotions
(Openness) rather than cognitive engagement with
abstract and semantic information, primarily through
conscious reasoning (Intellect; see Kaufman et al., 2016).
In terms of the speciﬁc factors of awe in the AWE-S, the
existence of the factors perception of vastness (F4) and the
need for accommodation (F6), suggested some construct
validity, as these are the two appraisal dimensions identi-
ﬁed by Keltner & Haidt (2003) in their foundational article
on awe. Similarly, the next two factors, self-diminishment
(F2) and connectedness (F3), are well supported by the
extant literature. Changes to the self from awe experi-
ences have also been explored empirically (Piﬀet al.,
2015) and theoretically (Yaden et al., 2017). This study
provides empirical support to the theoretical claims that
awe contains an aspect of self-diminishment and connect-
edness and that these two aspects are separable.
The factor related to alterations to time (F1) repre-
sents a notable shift in mental state that may indicate
that awe may be somewhere between an emotion and
an altered state of consciousness. The factor regarding
physical sensations (F5) contains somewhat unusual
items for a self-report emotion scale. However, we sug-
gest that physical sensations are knowable and repor-
table by participants. Awe resembles some kinds of
surprise, as Huron (2006) stated. Hence, much like chills
are not unusual sensations to be associated with forms
of musical surprise (Sloboda, 1991), one can imagine
how an awe experience could elicit a similar physiolo-
gical response. When we encounter something
overwhelming, able to diminish our sense of self, our
body prepares to react. While bodily reactions from awe
are mostly internal, Joye and Dewitte (2016) demon-
strated that awe can lead to a behavioral freezing (i.e.,
longer time reactions) In their research paradigm, the
more intense an awe experience was, the more paral-
yzed participants become in response to it. At the
psychophysiological level, Shiota, Neufeld, Yeung,
Moser, and Perea (2011) consistently found evidence
of the presence of a sympathetic withdrawal during
the experience of awe. Finally, awe has been shown
to be associated with a sudden parasympathetic activa-
tion (Chirico et al., 2017).
Limitations and future directions
This study was limited in several ways. First, we asked
participants to answer items related to an awe experi-
ence that they remembered and wrote about. While
other studies have found this method worthwhile
(e.g., Schurtz et al., 2012; Shiota et al., 2007), questions
remain about the validity of this technique, particularly
due to the constructive qualities of memory for emo-
tion recall (Kaplan, Levine, Lench, & Safer, 2016; Levine,
1997; Levine & Safer, 2002). However, given that rela-
tively large samples are required from EFA and CFA, this
memory recall method seemed indicated. In general,
this scale is intended for use immediately after an awe
experience. We expect this will occur in laboratory set-
tings through triggers such as virtual reality (Chirico,
Yaden, et al., 2016) as well as videos, images, medita-
tion, noninvasive brain stimulation, psychopharmacol-
ogy, and other means.
A second limitation of this study was the sample
characteristics. We drew our participants from online
M-Turk samples. While M-Turk samples have been
shown to be generally representative of the normal
population (Berinsky, Huber, & Lenz, 2012), further stu-
dies on more diverse samples should be done to better
establish external validity.
A third limitation derives from the current lack of a
validated state measure of awe in the research litera-
ture that would allow us to better establish convergent
and divergent validity. While we used well known scales
frequently employed in awe research –the mDES and
D-PES –the relatively nascent quality of this ﬁeld made
it diﬃcult to establish more robust convergent and
divergent validity. While the signiﬁcant correlation
between the state measure and an existing trait mea-
sure of awe is a promising starting point, the eﬀect sizes
of the correlations are lower than expected. A ceiling
eﬀect is likely constraining the correlation coeﬃcient,
but this should be investigated in future work.
12 D. B. YADEN ET AL.
Additionally, while there is substantial semantic
diversity between factors, there is some redundancy of
content in items within factors. This was due, in part, to
stay true to existing attempts in the literature to tap
these facets of awe. Despite some semantic redun-
dancy, the items do diverge in their speciﬁc terminol-
ogy while maintaining reliability.
In general, this measure may be most useful for those
interested in inducing and measuring various aspects of
awe identiﬁed in the extant literature at a more granular
level. In most cases, single awe items as part of larger
emotion scales will suﬃce to measure awe. This measure
is intended for researchers interested in examining spe-
ciﬁc aspects of awe experiences.
There are several future directions in which to take
this research. Further validity studies of the AWE-S are
the most urgent. This scale should be tested using
diﬀerent methods of awe induction and in diverse sam-
ple (e.g., adolescents, children, elderly populations). The
factors of the AWE-S should also undergo individual
convergent and divergent validity testing. This should
be done using related psychometric scales, including
emotion scales as well as scales measuring intense
subjective experiences such as mystical experience
(Hood et al., 2001; MacLean, Leoutsakos, Johnson, &
Griﬃths, 2012) and other varieties of Self-Transcendent
Experience (Yaden et al., 2017). Additionally, the speciﬁc
self-related and connection-related processes in awe
have yet to be adequately empirically elaborated and
clariﬁed. We plan to conduct qualitative analysis on the
written descriptions to explore these more nuanced
aspects of awe.
Keltner (2009) has previously distinguished true
experiences of awe from awe-related states (e.g.,
admiration), by requiring the presence of both per-
ceived vastness and the need for accommodation as
components of the experience. Relatedly, it would be
worth investigating which of the six factors identiﬁed
through the validation of this scale most frequently
occur and co-occur in awe states. In the case of the
ﬁfth factor, physical sensations (F5), physiological mea-
sures such as heart rate, skin conductance, and others
should be used to compare self-report and physiologi-
cal measures. For example, we would expect higher
scores on the physiological dimension to correlate
with a strong parasympathetic activation (Chirico
et al., 2017; Shiota et al., 2011).
Finally, future research might explore the diﬀerent
types of awe that may result in diﬀerent awe experi-
ence proﬁles. These may, for example, feature the pre-
sence or absence of various factors (e.g., feelings of self-
diminishment) in diﬀerent circumstances or when
experiences are triggered from diﬀerent stimuli (e.g.,
natural beauty), or inﬂuenced by diﬀerent ‘ﬂavoring’
themes (e.g. fear). As a result of these eﬀorts, here-
tofore-unknown similarities and diﬀerences may
emerge between awe and diﬀerent emotions and men-
tal states, as well as with other self-transcendent experi-
ences such as ﬂow, mindfulness, love, peak experiences,
and mystical experiences (Yaden et al., 2017).
The AWE-S is a stable and reliable 6-factor state measure
of the complex emotion of awe. This scale synthesizes
previous research on awe and opens up new and inter-
esting research possibilities for exploring various aspects
of awe. This multi-factorial scale makes it possible to
distinguish the diﬀerent roles each dimension of awe
plays on various subsequent outcomes. Moreover, it
could be possible to induce speciﬁc awe themes to dis-
tinguish the consequences and emotional nuances of
diﬀerent ﬂavors of awe. For now, this measure provides
substantial breadth and depth in the measurement of the
profound and often positive experience of awe.
1. The two items in the dropped seventh factor merged
with the sixth factor in the ﬁnal solution. These two
items are: ‘I had goosebumps’and ‘I had chills.’
No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the authors.
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