Awesome

At the Atlantic, Matthew Hutson summarizes recent research on the psychology of awe. The executive summary: Awe is good for you.

Psychologists have described awe as the experience of encountering something so vast—in size, skill, beauty, intensity, etc.—that we struggle to comprehend it and may even adjust our worldview to accommodate it. A waterfall might inspire awe; so could childbirth, or a scene of devastation. [1] Even if awe’s source is terrestrial, its outcome can be spiritual. In one set of studies, watching nature videos induced awe, which in turn reduced tolerance for uncertainty, which led to stronger belief in God or the supernatural. People have different ways of making sense of vastness. In another study, awe reduced belief in science among religious people. For the nonreligious, awe increased belief in evolution as an orderly versus random process.

Awe “expands our worldview, it shrinks our ego. Awe makes spiritual and religious people feel a greater sense of oneness with others.” It “shapes our sense of time. One series of studies found that awe made time feel more plentiful, which increased life satisfaction, willingness to donate time to charity, and preferences for experiences over material products.”

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