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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 AWES 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.
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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
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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 conrmed the 6-factor structure (N = 636) using t indices (CFI = .905;
RMSEA = .054). Each factor of the AWE-S is signicantly correlated with the awe items of the
modied Dierential 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 Burkes(1759/1970 and Immanuel
Kants(1764/2007) analyses of the sublime as a compel-
ling experience that transcends ones 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 denition is widespread in the eld, a
more robust denition 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
themesof 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 inuencing 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;
Pi, 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
© 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, aective, and perceptual
processes. Awe has been shown to inuence ones atten-
tion (Prade & Saroglou, 2016; Sung & Yih, 2016) in a way
that tends to be consistent with FredricksonsBroaden
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
(Piet al., 2015), as well as decreases aggressive attitudes
(Yang, Yang, Bao, Liu, & Passmore, 2016). This emotion can
also aect 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 nd 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 nd any validated state
scales for awe. Instead, the literature contains trait mea-
sures of ones 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
adierent 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.Thesedimensionsor 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 dene 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 facetsof awe. That is,
there exist theoretical dimensions of the awe construct
that have not previously been statistically dieren-
tiated. Below, we briey 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(Piet al., 2015). In laboratory settings, a
variety of dierent 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, Pi
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 dened and has therefore been operatio-
nalized in several dierent 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 specic connotations
(Razavi, Zhang, Hekiert, Yoo, & Howell, 2016). A study
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 ones 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 ow 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
ones own body size (van Elk et al., 2016). In terms of
ones subjective sense of self, awe has been shown to
reduce onesbeing and goals(Piet al., 2015). Items
used to measure this include I feel small or insignicant
(Piet 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., Piet 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 ones 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;Piet al., 2015). Items used to
measure this sense of connection include, I feel part of
some greater entity(Piet al., 2015). What one connects
to can include a number of dierent entities, though often
they are considered somehow greaterthan onesself
(e.g., ones 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 (Piet 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).
Physical sensations
Awe causes predictable changes to ones physiology.
Several autonomic changes associated with awe have
been recorded. Specically, 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 goosebumpsand 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.
Specically, research has identied 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
our intent to attempt an exhaustive account of aspects
of awe. This measure would be the rst 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 modied Dierential 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 rst asked to remember and then write
about a recent, intense awe experience amethodthathas
been shown to be an eective 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 Amazons 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 conrmed 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 Pi
et al. (2015). Specically, 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 specic as possible.
The Awe Experience Scale. Participants responded to 61
items about aspects of their awe experience.
Participants were asked specically 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.
Data analyses
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 signicantly 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
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 eeting 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 ve 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-
ping factors.
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
slowingand 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 conrmatory factor analysis
In this study, we conrmed 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
somehow smaller.
. 0.75 . . . .
I felt small compared to everything
. 0.6 . . . .
I had the sense of being connected
to everything.
. . 0.77 . . .
I felt a sense of communion with all
living things.
. . 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
something grand.
. . . 0.76 . .
I experienced something greater
than myself.
. . . 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.
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
AmazonsMechanicalTurk.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-
tied in Study 1. We also administered the modied
Dierential 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).
Awe items
In Study 2, participants responded to the 30 AWE-S items
about aspects of their awe experience identied in Study 1.
Again, participants were asked specically 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 modied dierential emotion scale (mDES)
We administered the mDES (Fredrickson, Tugade,
Waugh, & Larkin, 2003), a scale that measures the
degree to which one has felt dierent emotions over
the past 24 hours. Each item presents three related
words that signify a cluster of emotions (e.g., awe,
wonder, astonishmentor serene, content, peaceful).
To establish the convergent and divergent validity of
the AWE-S, we slightly modied the instructions of this
scale to make it a state measure referring specically 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 aective 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 (Cronbachs Alpha = .87) and the
negative emotions subscale also displayed high reliabil-
ity (Cronbachs 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
n= 636
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
n= 501
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
ones tendency to experience a number of dierent
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,
Cronbachs 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 ve 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 ndings, 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 themesthat characterized participantsawe
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 14;
M = 3.57, SD = .79), negative (Scale of 14; 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 15; Mean = 4.20, Std
Dev = .845) of their awe experience. These were single-
item measures included for exploratory purposes.
Conrmatory factor analysis
We performed Conrmatory Factor Analysis (CFA). To
test the t 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
n= 1137
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
n= 636
Conrmatory factor analysis
CFI was adequate (.905) and RMSEA was good (.054),
with 90% condence intervals of .051 and .058. In order
to conrm that the six-factor solution represented the
best t, we then calculated a 1-factor solution, which
showed inadequate t: CFI = .481 and RMSEA = .125.
Therefore, the 6-factor model of the AWE-S demon-
strated robust and superior t.
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).
Initial validity
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 modied 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 signicantly 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, elevatedand grateful,
appreciative, thankful)thanwiththeaweclusterawe,
wonder, astonishment.However, no other positive emo-
tion cluster was signicantly 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,
closeness, trust(β=.13,p<01),andinthenegative
direction glad, happy, joyful(β= -.18, p < .01),
However, the moderate correlation between the awe,
wonder, astonishmentcluster and the AWE-S is likely due
to a ceiling eect. The awe, wonder, astonishmentitem
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,
overwhelmedand the scared, fearful, afraidclusters
were signicantly 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
(Harrison, 1975)
D-PES. We also included a trait measure of emotions
that includes an item about ones 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, Condent, 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
total was signicantly 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
positive emotions.
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
signicant 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, intenseawe experience, awe experi-
ences were reported as overwhelmingly positive
(Figure 2).
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
supernatural. Participants reported experiences tting
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 specically
indicate what elicited their experience of awe
(Figure 4). We found, echoing the nding that beauty
was the most frequent theme, that natural scenery
was described as the most frequent trigger. We pro-
vided an otheroption 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
awe experiences.
Big ve 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 signicantly
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
Factors Intensity
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
Neutral Somewhat
Valence of Awe Experiences
Figure 2. Valence of Awe. n= 636.
0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70%
Percent A
Themes of Awe
Figure 3. Themes of Awe. n= 636.
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 identied 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. Conrmatory
Factor Analysis (CFA) showed that the 6-factor model
has a robust t. In general, a 6-factor solution with high
internal reliability was found through Exploratory and
Conrmatory Factor Analysis.
To establish convergent, divergent, and construct
validity, the AWE-S (which does not contain the word
awein any of its items) was compared with the modied
Dierential Emotion Scale (mDES) and the Dispositional
Positive Emotion Scale (D-PES). The awe item of the mDES
(awe, wonder, astonishment) was signicantly 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 signicantly correlated. The
D-PES is a measure of the tendency to experience a
number of dierent emotions, but the fact that it is a
trait measure also limits our interpretation. Nevertheless,
0% 10% 20% 30%
Grand Theory or Idea
Powerful Leader
Building or Monument
Great Virtue
Encounter with God
Great Skill
Natural Scenery
Percent A
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 AWE-S and each of its factors were signicantly 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 specic information in this
regard, showing that natural scenery was the most
frequent elicitor of awe. We report correlations with
aspects of personality, replicating previous ndings
that awe is associated with Openness to Experience
(Shiota et al., 2006; Silvia et al., 2015). However, our
ndings 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 specic 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-
ed 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 (Piet 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 eld made
it dicult to establish more robust convergent and
divergent validity. While the signicant correlation
between the state measure and an existing trait mea-
sure of awe is a promising starting point, the eect sizes
of the correlations are lower than expected. A ceiling
eect is likely constraining the correlation coecient,
but this should be investigated in future work.
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 specic terminol-
ogy while maintaining reliability.
In general, this measure may be most useful for those
interested in inducing and measuring various aspects of
awe identied in the extant literature at a more granular
level. In most cases, single awe items as part of larger
emotion scales will suce to measure awe. This measure
is intended for researchers interested in examining spe-
cic 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
dierent 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, &
Griths, 2012) and other varieties of Self-Transcendent
Experience (Yaden et al., 2017). Additionally, the specic
self-related and connection-related processes in awe
have yet to be adequately empirically elaborated and
claried. 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 identied
through the validation of this scale most frequently
occur and co-occur in awe states. In the case of the
fth 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 dierent
types of awe that may result in dierent awe experi-
ence proles. These may, for example, feature the pre-
sence or absence of various factors (e.g., feelings of self-
diminishment) in dierent circumstances or when
experiences are triggered from dierent stimuli (e.g.,
natural beauty), or inuenced by dierent avoring
themes (e.g. fear). As a result of these eorts, here-
tofore-unknown similarities and dierences may
emerge between awe and dierent emotions and men-
tal states, as well as with other self-transcendent experi-
ences such as ow, 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 dierent roles each dimension of awe
plays on various subsequent outcomes. Moreover, it
could be possible to induce specic awe themes to dis-
tinguish the consequences and emotional nuances of
dierent avors 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 nal solution. These two
items are: I had goosebumpsand I had chills.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
David B. Yaden
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... Awe has a double valence (Cowen et al., 2019;Nakayama et al., 2020;Pizarro et al., 2021). In other words, it is unique in that it contains both negative valence of depression, tension, avoidance, or powerlessness (Chaudhury et al., 2021), and positive valence of aesthetic pleasure, selfimprovement, or virtue (Yaden et al., 2019;Van Elk and Rotteveel, 2020). ...
... Although some studies have explored the important role of awe as a positive emotion Wang et al., 2019;Arcangeli et al., 2020), the discussion on the negative aspect of awe is lacking. One of the uniqueness of awe is that it has a dual valence, that is, it contains both a negative valence of depression, tension, avoidance, or powerlessness (Chaudhury et al., 2021) and a positive valence of aesthetic pleasure, self-improvement, or virtue (Yaden et al., 2019;Van Elk and Rotteveel, 2020). While there is plenty of evidence that awe, as a positive emotion, promotes green consumption (Piff et al., 2015;Wang et al., 2019). ...
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The spread of the COVID-19 virus shows that it is time to re-emphasize the ethical attitude of “awe of others, awe of nature, and awe of life.” It once again reveals the importance of green development. In this study, we introduce awe into the context of COVID-19 and construct an “emotion-motivation-behavior” framework, aiming to explore the relationship between the epidemic and green purchasing behavior from a psychological perspective. Study 1 demonstrates the effect of awe on green purchasing and examines the mediating role of the motivation perspective, to reveal the potential different path. Specifically, prosocial motivation mediates the effect of positive awe evoked by COVID-19 on green purchasing; risk avoidance motivation mediates the effect of negative awe evoked by COVID-19 on green purchasing. Study 2 examined the moderating effect of self-construal. These findings have important management implications for enterprises to correctly use emotional guidance strategies and promote green marketing practices during the COVID-19.
... Different types of connectedness have been defined and measured previously, e.g. social connectedness (Aron et al. 1992;Lee and Robbins 1998;Mashek et al. 2007), nature connectedness (Mayer and Frantz 2004;Nisbet et al. 2009) and a connection to spiritual values or transpersonal connection (Piedmont 2012;Reed 1991;Yaden et al. 2017Yaden et al. , 2019. However, here, we hypothesise that each of these domains of connectedness may be linked by a common general factor that can simply be referred to as 'connectedness'. ...
... Some questionnaires that measure the acute psychedelic experience include emotional, social and spiritual aspects of connectedness MacLean et al. 2012;Roseman et al. 2019;Yaden et al. 2019), but there are no measures to capture the multidimensional connectedness which may be felt in the weeks after a psychedelic experience and thus no tools to measure when this state begins to fade. The Watts Connectedness Scale (WCS) has been developed to enable measurement, with a single tool, of 'connectedness to self, others and world' in daily life, before and after any intervention which might be hypothesized to improve it, including psychedelic therapy. ...
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Rationale A general feeling of disconnection has been associated with mental and emotional suffering. Improvements to a sense of connectedness to self, others and the wider world have been reported by participants in clinical trials of psychedelic therapy. Such accounts have led us to a definition of the psychological construct of ‘connectedness’ as ‘a state of feeling connected to self, others and the wider world’. Existing tools for measuring connectedness have focused on particular aspects of connectedness, such as ‘social connectedness’ or ‘nature connectedness’, which we hypothesise to be different expressions of a common factor of connectedness. Here, we sought to develop a new scale to measure connectedness as a construct with these multiple domains. We hypothesised that (1) our scale would measure three separable subscale factors pertaining to a felt connection to ‘self’, ‘others’ and ‘world’ and (2) improvements in total and subscale WCS scores would correlate with improved mental health outcomes post psychedelic use. Objectives To validate and test the ‘Watts Connectedness Scale’ (WCS). Methods Psychometric validation of the WCS was carried out using data from three independent studies. Firstly, we pooled data from two prospective observational online survey studies. The WCS was completed before and after a planned psychedelic experience. The total sample of completers from the online surveys was N = 1226. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis were performed, and construct and criterion validity were tested. A third dataset was derived from a double-blind randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing psilocybin-assisted therapy (n = 27) with 6 weeks of daily escitalopram (n = 25) for major depressive disorder (MDD), where the WCS was completed at baseline and at a 6-week primary endpoint. Results As hypothesised, factor analysis of all WCS items revealed three main factors with good internal consistency. WCS showed good construct validity. Significant post-psychedelic increases were observed for total connectedness scores (η2 = 0.339, p < 0.0001), as well as on each of its subscales (p < 0.0001). Acute measures of ‘mystical experience’, ‘emotional breakthrough’, and ‘communitas’ correlated positively with post-psychedelic changes in connectedness (r = 0.42, r = 0.38, r = 0.42, respectively, p < 0.0001). In the RCT, psilocybin therapy was associated with greater increases in WCS scores compared with the escitalopram arm (ηp2 = 0.133, p = 0.009). Conclusions The WCS is a new 3-dimensional index of felt connectedness that may sensitively measure therapeutically relevant psychological changes post-psychedelic use. We believe that the operational definition of connectedness captured by the WCS may have broad relevance in mental health research.
... Some central qualities of psychedelic experiences exhibit sociality. In some contexts, psychedelics acutely increase relational feelings of connectedness with nature, other humans, or with spirituality (Forstmann and Sagioglou, 2017;Watts et al., 2017;Yaden et al., 2019;Kettner et al., 2021). Psychedelics can produce an animistic mindset, where the natural world is humanized, personalized and socialized with human traits (sentience, relationality, intentionality, cooperation, intelligence) (Winkelman, 2013). ...
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The heralded psychedelic renaissance is currently at a new level where psychedelics are being normalized. Medicalization and the ongoing introduction of market forces are imposing a trend in which psychedelic treatments are reduced to focus into strictly pharmacological and psychological effects on the self, rather than interactions with broader social context. Such narrowing of how psychedelic treatments are being conceived, used, and researched is a source of concern for those who understand that psychedelics’ therapeutic effects as also derived from socially and culturally meaningful elements. Alienation – the sense of isolation from others – and the mental health problems associated with it are on the rise. Consequently, there is not only a need for new therapies but also for a renewed social adhesion and a commitment to a more just and equal society. Psychedelics have a long history of bringing people together, facilitating intense shared experiences, and revitalizing cultures. This social dimension of use of psychedelics—psychedelic sociality—should be considered in the current mainstreaming, as therein lies their potential to support change in individual therapy and beyond. This multidisciplinary research topic of psychedelic sociality invited scholars to discuss these issues through empirical research, reviews, perspectives, and theoretical papers. Overall, 21 papers were accepted to this research topic, covering different sections of Frontiers (Neuropharmacology, Psychopharmacology, Ethnopharmacology, Personality and Social Psychology, and Consciousness Research). We are especially proud of the broad scope of this issue and the diversity of disciplines represented in it. We believe that a beneficial mainstreaming of psychedelics requires going beyond the boundaries of disciplinary orientation. Interdisciplinary integration is necessary for the paradigmatic shift in mental health that many are yearning for: a shift from a narrow biomedical model to an expanded biopsychosocial model that emphasizes the interplay between biological, psychological, sociopolitical and environmental factors in mental health. The centrality of the experience and set & setting in psychedelic research is an invitation to transcend some of the boundaries between the natural sciences and the humanities (see Langlitz et al. (2021). The biopsychosocial model is especially relevant to psychedelic research because to answer questions regarding how psychedelics function, we must incorporate different levels of inquiry – from receptors to persons to culture.
... Other characteristics of awe appeared in our interviews and can be linked to the facets of awe in the Awe Experience Scale (AWE-S; Yaden et al., 2019). One of these facets is selfdiminishment, which refers to the feeling of a small self, and was conveyed by one of our participants, Arne. ...
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Coastal environments are increasingly shown to have a positive effect on our health and well-being. Various mechanisms have been suggested to explain this effect. However, so far little focus has been devoted to emotions that might be relevant in this context, especially for people who are directly or indirectly exposed to the coast on a daily basis. Our preregistered qualitative study explored how coastal residents experience the emotions they feel at the coast and how they interpret the effect these emotions have on them. We conducted semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of eight Belgian coastal residents aged 21–25 years old. The interviews were analyzed with the approach of interpretative phenomenological analysis. Five superordinate themes were identified and indicate that, for our participants, the coast represents a safe haven (1) in which they can experience emotional restoration (2), awe (3), and nostalgia (4). These emotional states are accompanied with adaptive emotion regulating strategies (5), such as reflection and positive reappraisal, that may facilitate coping with difficult thoughts and feelings. Our study demonstrates the importance of investigating specific emotions and related processes triggered at the coast and how these could contribute to the therapeutic value of the coast.
... Hope, joy, and serenity emanated from gratitude. Yaden et al. (2018) with changing terrain and the more-than-human beings. My experience deepened as I discovered a starfish who, with its small tube feet, one by one, surrounded my fingers, filling me with awe and appreciation of the beautiful human-to-more-than-human connection. ...
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This dissertation details a doctoral research project that considered how embodied experience to place and the more-than-human world within the Florida Everglades might influence the existent entanglements of human-nature connectedness. I explored my immersive connection to place and experience with the more-than-human through a multi-methodological approach. Applying multiple data collection tools such as participant-observation of human and the more-than-human, walking, purposeful sitting by the water, kayaking, and multimedia channels, I captured irrevocable moments in time and space within the Florida Everglades. Withal, through semi-structured interviews, I conversed with representatives of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida. With this dissertation deliverable, I provide the reader with an introduction to the complexities of the matter, a contextual understanding of the subject, research question and subclass questions, research methodologies, and methods that prompted and supported the proposed research project. Further, I present the ongoing entangled emergence of themes and subthemes such as awe, connection, colonialism, power relations and utilitarian biophilic typology.
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In response to the mental health crisis in science, and amid concerns about the detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on scientists, this study seeks to identify the role of a heretofore under-researched factor for flourishing and eudaimonia: aesthetic experiences in scientific work. The main research question that this study addresses is: To what extent is the frequency of encountering aesthetics in terms of beauty, awe, and wonder in scientific work associated with greater well-being among scientists? Based on a large-scale ( N = 3,061) and representative international survey of scientists (biologists and physicists) in four countries (India, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States), this study employs sets of nested regressions to model the associations of aesthetic experiences with flourishing while controlling for demographic factors and negative workplace and life circumstances such as burnout, job/publication pressure, mistreatment, COVID-19 impacts, other stressful life events, serious psychological distress, and chronic health conditions. The results show that the frequency of aesthetic experiences in scientific work in the disciplines of biology and physics has a very large and statistically significant association with flourishing and eudaimonia that remains robust even when controlling for demographic factors and negative workplace and life circumstances, including COVID-19 impacts. Aesthetic experiences in scientific work are even as strongly associated with flourishing as the presence of serious psychological distress and are most strongly associated with the flourishing domain of meaning in life, thus pointing to a link with eudaimonic well-being. In line with neurophysiological evidence and positive psychological models of flow, self-transcendence, and intrinsic motivation, aesthetics are a key source of flourishing for scientists in the disciplines of biology and physics. While future research needs to test the causal mechanism, the strength of the findings could encourage leaders of scientific labs and research organizations generally to remove obstacles to experiencing the aesthetic dimensions of science. Fostering cultures in which the aesthetic experiences that are intrinsic to scientific practice are fully appreciated might potentially protect or boost flourishing by reducing the impacts of burnout, job/publication pressure, and mistreatment-related experiences in science.
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This paper provides a critical review of several possible mechanisms at different levels of analysis underlying the effects and therapeutic potential of psychedelics. At the (1) biochemical level, psychedelics primarily affect the 5-HT2a receptor, increase neuroplasticity, offer a critical period for social reward learning and have anti-inflammatory properties. At the (2) neural level, psychedelics have been associated with reduced efficacy of thalamo-cortical filtering, the loosening of top-down predictive signaling and an increased sensitivity to bottom-up prediction errors, and activation of the claustro-cortical-circuit. At the (3) psychological level, psychedelics have been shown to induce altered and affective states, they affect cognition, induce belief change, exert social effects and can result in lasting changes in behavior. We outline the potential for a unifying account of the mechanisms underlying psychedelics and contrast this with a model of pluralistic causation. Ultimately, a better understanding of the specific mechanisms underlying the effects of psychedelics could allow for a more targeted therapeutic approach. We highlight current challenges for psychedelic research and provide a research agenda to foster insight in the causal-mechanistic pathways underlying the efficacy of psychedelic research and therapy.
Dijitalleşme, modern yaşam ve gelişmelere olan yoğun bağımlılığın bir sonucu olarak insan hayatı, insanlıkla ve maneviyatla bağlarını kaybetme tehlikesiyle karşı karşıyadır. Bunun muhtemel bir çözümü, Büyük Kanyon’un enginliğine veya yüzlerce yıldızla dolu bir gökyüzüne tanık olmak veya mistik bir deneyim yaşamak gibi örneklerle açıklanabilecek, hayret ve hayranlığın duygusal bir algısı olan awe duygusunun beslenmesidir. Bu çalışmada öncelikle alan yazın titizlikle taranmış ve awe üzerine yapılan araştırmalar bu duygunun ne olduğu, formülasyonu, felsefesi çerçevesinde derlenmiştir. Daha sonra awenin Varoluşçu ve Transpersonel psikolojideki kullanım alanları verilmiş ve ayrıca hastalarda bu duyguyu güçlendirebilecek terapi önerileri de sunulmuştur. Sonuç olarak awenin halk sağlığının yükseltilmesi ve yaşam doyumunun yükseltilmesine yönelik tedavilerde daha fazla kullanılması gerektiğine inanıyoruz.
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In this study, we describe the development and initial validation of two psychometric scales for measuring psychedelic integration. Psychedelic integration refers to the post-acute period of time following psychedelic drug administration. We created the Integration Engagement Scale (IES) to capture positive behavioral engagement with integration and the Experienced Integration Scale (EIS) to capture internal aspects of feeling integrated. These scales were developed to measure post-acute psychedelic administration dynamics in order to inform the creation of enhanced integration support and to help refine a general conceptual understanding of the construct of psychedelic integration. The scales are brief and face valid instruments designed for practical use in applied and research settings. Scale items were generated and refined using the Iterative Process Model of scale development, with input from psychedelics experts and clinicians. Content validity, internal structure, and reliability were assessed via expert surveys, content validity analysis, cognitive interviewing, convergent validity analysis, exploratory factor analysis, and confirmatory factor analysis. The data indicates the scales are valid and reliable measurements of the behavioral and experiential forms of Psychedelic Integration.
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Awe is a complex emotion arising from the perception of literal or figurative vastness. Several subjective components of awe have been identified, including feelings of connectedness and self-diminishment, making it a form of self-transcendent experience. Awe has also been linked to increased well-being and altruistic behavior. This chapter describes recent advances in the experimental literature on awe, reviews some methods of inducing this emotion in the lab, and discusses some theories regarding its functions.
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In this article we review the emerging literature on the self-transcendent emotions. We discuss how the self-transcendent emotions differ from other positive emotions and outline the defining features of this category. We then provide an analysis of three specific self-transcendent emotions—compassion, gratitude, and awe—detailing what has been learned about their expressive behavior, physiology, and likely evolutionary origins. We propose that these emotions emerged to help humans solve unique problems related to caretaking, cooperation, and group coordination in social interactions. In our final section we offer predictions about the self-transcendent emotions that can guide future research.
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Scientists from Einstein to Sagan have linked emotions like awe with the motivation for scientific inquiry, but no research has tested this possibility. Theoretical and empirical work from affective science, however, suggests that awe might be unique in motivating explanation and exploration of the physical world. We synthesize theories of awe with theories of the cognitive mechanisms related to learning, and offer a generative theoretical framework that can be used to test the effect of this emotion on early science learning.
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Various forms of self-loss have been described as aspects of mental illness (e.g., depersonalization disorder), but might self-loss also be related to mental health? In this integrative review and proposed organizational framework, we focus on self-transcendent experiences (STEs)—transient mental states marked by decreased self-salience and increased feelings of connectedness. We first identify common psychological constructs that contain a self-transcendent aspect, including mindfulness, flow, peak experiences, mystical-type experiences, and certain positive emotions (e.g., love, awe). We then propose psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that may mediate the effects of STEs based on a review of the extant literature from social psychology, clinical psychology, and affective neuroscience. We conclude with future directions for further empirical research on these experiences.
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Awe, a complex emotion composed by the appraisal components of vastness and need for accommodation, is a profound and often meaningful experience. Despite its importance, psychologists have only recently begun empirical study of awe. At the experimental level, a main issue concerns how to elicit high intensity awe experiences in the lab. To address this issue, Virtual Reality (VR) has been proposed as a potential solution. Here, we considered the highest realistic form of VR: immersive videos. 42 participants watched at immersive and normal 2D videos displaying an awe or a neutral content. After the experience, they rated their level of awe and sense of presence. Participants’ psychophysiological responses (BVP, SC, sEMG) were recorded during the whole video exposure. We hypothesized that the immersive video condition would increase the intensity of awe experienced compared to 2D screen videos. Results indicated that immersive videos significantly enhanced the self-reported intensity of awe as well as the sense of presence. Immersive videos displaying an awe content also led to higher parasympathetic activation. These findings indicate the advantages of using VR in the experimental study of awe, with methodological implications for the study of other emotions.
Extrapolating from B. L. Fredrickson's (1998, 2001) broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, the authors hypothesized that positive emotions are active ingredients within trait resilience. U.S. college students (18 men and 28 women) were tested in early 2001 and again in the weeks following the September 11th terrorist attacks. Mediational analyses showed that positive emotions experienced in the wake of the attacks - gratitude, interest, love, and so forth - fully accounted for the relations between (a) precrisis resilience and later development of depressive symptoms and (b) precrisis resilience and postcrisis growth in psychological resources. Findings suggest that positive emotions in the aftermath of crises buffer resilient people against depression and fuel thriving, consistent with the broaden-and-build theory. Discussion touches on implications for coping.
This eye-opening text brings together research from behavioral science, neuroscience, and other fields to make a cogent case for emotions acting as a practical framework for living our lives. A dozen basic emotions are analyzed in terms of what causes them, how they change thoughts and behaviors, and the functional value of these responses. Contrary to the common idea of emotions as fleeting occurrences, they are shown as having the potential for lasting impact on moods, thoughts, and behaviors. Intriguing findings assert that even negative emotions such as jealousy and anger can have positive results such as promoting positive goals, and can lead to successful outcomes in overarching domains such as cognition and well-being. Among the topics covered: · How fear and anxiety promote attention and protective behavior. · How sadness and depression promote analysis of complex problems in goal-pursuits. · How happiness promotes processing and attention. · How love promotes relationship development and goal attainment. · How pride promotes sense of self and identity. The Function of Emotions is a valuable resource for students, researchers, and clinicians interested in the psychology and neuroscience of emotions and their function in everyday life. It will attract an interested readership among professionals working in such fields as education, management and leadership, social work, and psychotherapy.
Humility is a foundational virtue that counters selfish inclinations such as entitlement, arrogance, and narcissism (Tangney, 2000). We hypothesize that experiences of awe promote greater humility. Guided by an appraisal-tendency framework of emotion, we propose that when individuals encounter an entity that is vast and challenges their worldview, they feel awe, which leads to self-diminishment and subsequently humility. In support of these claims, awe-prone individuals were rated as more humble by friends (Study 1) and reported greater humility across a 2-week period (Study 2), controlling for other positive emotions. Inducing awe led participants to present a more balanced view of their strengths and weaknesses to others (Study 3) and acknowledge, to a greater degree, the contribution of outside forces in their own personal accomplishments (Study 4), compared with neutral and positive control conditions. Finally, an awe-inducing expansive view elicited greater reported humility than a neutral view (Study 5). We also elucidated the process by which awe leads to humility. Feelings of awe mediated the relationship between appraisals (perceptions of vastness and a challenge to one's world view) and humility (Study 4), and self-diminishment mediated the relationship between awe and humility (Study 5). Taken together, these results reveal that awe offers one path to greater humility. (PsycINFO Database Record
Awe has been theorized as a collective emotion, one that enables individuals to integrate into social collectives. In keeping with this theorizing, we propose that awe diminishes the sense of self and shifts attention away from individual interests and concerns. In testing this hypothesis across 6 studies (N = 2137), we first validate pictorial and verbal measures of the small self; we then document that daily, in vivo, and lab experiences of awe, but not other positive emotions, diminish the sense of the self. These findings were observed across collectivist and individualistic cultures, but also varied across cultures in magnitude and content. Evidence from the last 2 studies showed that the influence of awe upon the small self accounted for increases in collective engagement, fitting with claims that awe promotes integration into social groups. Discussion focused on how the small self might mediate the effects of awe on collective cognition and behavior, the need to study more negatively valenced varieties of awe, and other potential cultural variations of the small self.