Awe is an emotional response to stimuli that are perceived to be vast (e.g., tall trees, sunsets) and that defy accommodation by existing mental structures. Curiously, awe has prosocial effects despite often being elicited by nonsocial stimuli. The prevailing explanation for why awe has prosocial effects is that awe reduces attention to self-oriented concerns (i.e., awe makes the self small), thereby making more attention available for other-oriented concerns. However, several questions remain unaddressed by the current formulation of this small-self hypothesis. How are awe researchers defining the self, and what implications might their theory of selfhood have for understanding the “smallness” of the self? Building on theories regarding psychological selfhood, we propose that awe may interact with the self not just in terms of attentional focus but rather at multiple layers of selfhood. We further reinterpret the small self using the notion of the quiet ego from personality psychology. Linking awe to an enriched model of the self provided by personality psychology may be fruitful for explaining a range of phenomena and motivating future research.
Thursday, April 30, 2020
Why does awe have prosocial effects?
An interesting perspective from Perlin and Li: