March 29, 2015


One of the most common features of accounts of extreme environments – and one of the many motivations for choosing them – is the experience of being in natural landscapes. And not just any natural landscapes – landscapes that inspire awe.

Alongside fear, awe is one of the most powerful and profound emotions experienced by individuals in extreme environments. Yet awe is relatively neglected in psychological research.

I’ll keep updating this page with resources on the psychology of awe as I come across them.

For even more awe, check out Project Awe – part of a University of California, Berkeley research project. “We are trying to understand what makes people feel awe, who is more likely to feel awe, how awe influences people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and how these aspects of the awe experience might vary in different cultures.”

Research articles

Keltner, D. & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual and aesthetic emotion. Cognition and Emotion 17(2):297-314 [pdf]

Rudd, M., Vohs, K.D., & Aaker, J. (2012) Awe expands people’s perception of time, alters decision making, and enhances well-being. Psychological Science 23:1130-1136 [pdf]

Shiota, M.N., & Keltner, D. (2007). The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and effects on self-concept. Cognition and Emotion 21(4=5):944-963 [pdf]

Shiota, M., Keltner, D., & John, O. (2006). Positive emotion dispositions differentially associated with Big Five personality and attachment style. The Journal of Positive Psychology 1 (2): 61–71.

Shiota, M., Keltner, D., & Mossman, A. (2007). The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and effects on self-concept. Cognition and Emotion 21 (5): 944–963

Stellar, J.E., et al (2015). Positive affect and markers of inflammation: Discrete positive emotions predict lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Emotion. 2015 Apr;15(2):129-33

Van Cappellen, P. & Saroglou, V. (2012). Awe Activates Religious and Spiritual Feelings and Behavioral Intentions. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 4(3):233-236 [pdf]

Zhang, J.W. et al. (2014). An occasion for unselfing: Beautiful nature leads to prosociality. Journal of Environmental Psychology 37:61-72

Zhang, J.W., Howell, R.T., & Iyer, R. (2014). Engagement with natural beauty moderates the positive relation between connectedness with nature and psychological well-being. Journal of Environmental Psychology 38: 55-63 [pdf]

Other material

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