According to a story published at PsychCentral, “People who experience feelings of awe tend to exhibit more altruistic, helpful, and positive social behaviors, according to a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
“Our investigation indicates that awe, although often fleeting and hard to describe, serves a vital social function. By diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, awe may encourage people to forgo strict self-interest to improve the welfare of others,” said lead author Paul Piff, Ph.D.,
Researchers conducted a set of 5 different experiments with over 1,500 respondents. Each experiment was intended to examine how different awe-inspiring experiences–both positive and negative–impacted participants’ pro-social behavior (i.e., selfless actions that work for the good of others).
One surprising finding was how many types awe-inspiring situations were able to promote cooperative behavior.
In one experiment, the researchers elicited awe by showing droplets of colored water falling into a bowl of milk in slow motion. In another, they provoked a negative form of awe by using a montage of threatening natural phenomena, such as tornadoes and volcanoes. In a final experiment, the researchers induced awe by situating participants in a grove of towering eucalyptus trees.
“Across all these different elicitors of awe, we found the same sorts of effects — people felt smaller, less self-important, and behaved in a more pro-social fashion,” said Piff.
“Might awe cause people to become more invested in the greater good, giving more to charity, volunteering to help others, or doing more to lessen their impact on the environment? Our research would suggest that the answer is yes.” READ MORE