Awe as a self-transcending emotion

Stell, Alexander J (2018) Awe as a self-transcending emotion. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Download (3MB)

Abstract

Although long evading scientific scrutiny, the emotion awe has recently come under sustained analysis by experimental social psychologists. Nevertheless, very little is known about its nature, function, elicitors and effects on human behavior. This thesis offers a data-driven experimental analysis of awe, exploring the theme that the emotion involves a transcendence from mental maps of the self and the world. From this central motif, we explore more narrowly-defined questions, such as whether awe is associated with transcendence from implicit social cognition, the desire to conform, and the need for social inclusion. We also explore whether other techniques that elicit self-transcendence serve to amplify the awe experience.
Utilizing a randomized control trial methodology, we found that awe, compared to other positive emotions and neutral states, was causally associated with lower implicit prejudice towards groups based on gender and ethnicity. We also proposed and successfully detected a mechanism for this effect, namely the strengthening of an identification with all humanity. We found mixed support for the idea that awe is associated with a lesser need to conform and be socially included. Finally, in exploring possible elicitors and amplifiers, we detected a positive association between dispositional awe and mindfulness and found that experimentally-elicited mindfulness can activate awe even towards relatively ordinary stimuli.
This thesis builds upon and refines the idea of awe as a self-transcending emotion, offering insights on particular aspects of cognition and behavior that are changed by the experience. We have also located some promising new paths of investigation that future researchers may find useful to follow further. In summary, the present work helps extend the exploration of the nature and function of an undeniably profound human experience.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0511 Affection. Feeling. Emotion > BF0531 Emotion > BF0575 Special forms of emotion, etc., A-Z > BF0575.A9 Awe
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 14:01
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2018 14:01
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/74973

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update