The Resurgence of Awe in Psychology: Promise, Hope, and Perils

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Abstract

The sense of awe, defined as a perception of vastness that cannot be assimilated but can be accommodated, or as the experience of humility and wonder—adventure—toward living, has become a hot topic in psychology. This article considers the basis for this trend, some promising avenues of research, and several challenges to the mainstream—quantitative—perspective on awe. It concludes that although mainstream perspectives on awe appear to have beneficial effects on an impressive array of human behaviors, the relative neglect of historically rooted, in-depth, qualitative approaches to awe pose notable perils. Among these perils are the comparative reductionism of the findings on awe to overt and measurable reactions; the neglect of longer term, life-changing experiences of awe; and the neglect of the broader social implications of awe-based transformation.

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