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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2015 Jun;108(6):883-99. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000018.

Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine.
2
Department of Psychology, New York University.
3
Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.
4
Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley.

Abstract

Awe is an emotional response to perceptually vast stimuli that transcend current frames of reference. Guided by conceptual analyses of awe as a collective emotion, across 5 studies (N = 2,078) we tested the hypothesis that awe can result in a diminishment of the individual self and its concerns, and increase prosocial behavior. In a representative national sample (Study 1), dispositional tendencies to experience awe predicted greater generosity in an economic game above and beyond other prosocial emotions (e.g., compassion). In follow-up experiments, inductions of awe (relative to various control states) increased ethical decision-making (Study 2), generosity (Study 3), and prosocial values (Study 4). Finally, a naturalistic induction of awe in which participants stood in a grove of towering trees enhanced prosocial helping behavior and decreased entitlement compared to participants in a control condition (Study 5). Mediational data demonstrate that the effects of awe on prosociality are explained, in part, by feelings of a small self. These findings indicate that awe may help situate individuals within broader social contexts and enhance collective concern.

PMID:
25984788
DOI:
10.1037/pspi0000018
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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