Going beyond ourselves:

The role of self-transcendent experiences in wisdom

Abstract: Having good moral character often involves shifting one’s focus of attention from the self to others and the world. Across three studies (N  =  605 adults), we found converging evidence that self-transcendent experiences, specifically awe and flow, enabled the expression of wisdom, as captured by wise reasoning and epistemic humility measures. Study 1 found that dispositionally awe- and flow-prone people have stronger wise reasoning and epistemic humility abilities, over and above dispositional happiness. Consistent with Study 1, Study 2 found that, across diverse recalled experiences, individuals who experienced more awe showed greater wise reasoning, and those who experienced more flow showed greater epistemic humility. In Study 3, using situated interventions, we induced awe (watching a video involving vast nature scenes) and flow (composing a song using an online music maker) and compared them with neutral and amusement experiences. Compared to these control conditions, eliciting awe and flow facilitated one’s (1) ability to address interpersonal conflicts with wise reasoning, (2) ability to acknowledge one’s epistemic gaps, and (3) willingness to improve those aspects and one’s general moral character. Altogether, these findings reveal the promising role of self-transcendent experiences in motivating people to appreciate others’ perspectives beyond one’s own. 

Click on the citation to read the article:

Kim, Y., Nusbaum, H. C., & Yang, F. (2022). Going beyond ourselves: the role of self-transcendent experiences in wisdom. Cognition and Emotion, 1-19.