We have all felt in awe of something at some point—the Grand Canyon, the Forbidden City, a starry night—but until recently, the feeling of awe has been mostly ignored by science. Psychological researchers at Stanford and the University of Minnesota, however, have devised an experiment to measure the feeling of awe in laboratory settings. “Across three different experiments, they found that jaw-dropping moments made participants feel like they had more time available and made them more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to volunteer time to help others.”
What’s the Big Idea?
The experiments demonstrate how intimately related are our mental and physical worlds and that by simply observing the majesty of the planet’s natural environment, we arrive at a fuller understanding of life and are better equipped to deal with its hardships. “The researchers found that the effects that awe has on decision-making and well-being can be explained by awe’s ability to actually change our subjective experience of time by slowing it down. Experiences of awe help to brings us into the present moment which, in turn, adjusts our perception of time, influences our decisions, and makes life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise.”