Seeing awe: How children perceive awe-inspiring visual experiences

Abstract: Awe is a profound, self-transcendent emotion. To illuminate its origin, four preregistered studies examined how U.S. 4-to 9-year- old children perceive awe-inspiring stimuli (N = 444, 55% female, 58% White, tested in 2020–2023). Awe-inspiring expansive nature (Study 1) and natural disaster scenes (Study 2) evoked perceived vastness, motivation to explore, and awareness of the unknown more than everyday scenes did (d ranging 0.32–1.76). Compared to expansive social stimuli, expansive nature stimuli more positively affected children's sense of self (Study 3). Diverse awe-inspiring scenes (vast nature, natural disasters, and slow-motion objects) all elicited awe and higher learning motivation than everyday scenes did (Study 4). These findings suggest that children appreciate awe-inspiring visual experiences, illuminating the origins and nature of awe as a self-transcendent experience.

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 O'bi, A., & Yang, F. (2024). Seeing awe: How children perceive awe‐inspiring visual experiences. Child Development. 1-16.