Peak experiences: Some Empirical Tests

Wuthnow Robert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


This article presents evidence from a random sample survey of the San Franciscio Bay Area on some of the differences between people who claim to have had intense peak experiences and people who have not had such experiences. The data indicate that most people have had some kind of peak experience, but some people seem clearly to be more oriented toward “peaking” than others. Peakers tend more often than nonpeakers to say their lives are very meaningful, that they think about the meaning and purpose of life and feel they know what the purpose of life is, and that they spend time meditating. They also score higher on self-rated adjectives concerning personal talents and capabilities. In other words, the data seems consistent with Maslow's suggestion that peaking may be associated with self-actualization. The data also tends to support some of Maslow's assertions about the possible effects of peak experiences on values. In particular, peakers are less likely than nonpeakers to say they value material possessions, high pay, job security, being famous, and having a lot of friends. They are more likely, however, to say they value working for social changes, helping to solve social problems, and helping people in need. These differences do not seem to be attributable merely to other differences between peakers and nonpeakers, such as differences in education, age, employment, sex, or marital status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-76
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Humanistic Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1978

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Political Science


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