Awe as a Scientific Emotion

Sara Gottlieb, Dacher Keltner, Tania Lombrozo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Awe has traditionally been considered a religious or spiritual emotion, yet scientists often report that awe motivates them to answer questions about the natural world, and to do so in naturalistic terms. Indeed, awe may be closely related to scientific discovery and theoretical advance. Awe is typically triggered by something vast (either literally or metaphorically) and initiates processes of accommodation, in which existing mental schemas are revised to make sense of the awe-inspiring stimuli. This process of accommodation is essential for the kind of belief revision that characterizes scientific reasoning and theory change. Across six studies, we find that the tendency to experience awe is positively associated with scientific thinking, and that this association is not shared by other positive emotions. Specifically, we show that the disposition to experience awe predicts a more accurate understanding of how science works, rejection of creationism, and rejection of unwarranted teleological explanations more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2081-2094
Number of pages14
JournalCognitive science
Volume42
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Artificial Intelligence

Keywords

  • Awe
  • Explanation
  • Science
  • Teleology

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