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As a self-transcendent emotion, awe refers to an immediate emotional response or a sustained feeling to various stimuli. The experience of awe is profound and of great significance not only for individual growth but also for social progress. To systematically understand and better conduct future research on awe, this study first illustrates the definition of awe and its widespread functions on prosocial behaviors, well-being, cognition, and self-consciousness. Then, the neuroscientific literature is reviewed, where findings show that the neural basis of awe involves multiple brain regions related to self-consciousness, cognitive control, attention, and emotion. The review also discusses the application of awe in clinical treatments, especially in transpersonal psychotherapy, to inspire individuals to promote spiritual development. Lastly, recommendations on how awe can guide future research are presented.


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Psychological research of awe: Definition, functions, and application in psychotherapy

Show Author's information Li Luo1,2Jixuan Mao1shengdong Chen1Wei Gao1Jiajin Yuan2( )
 Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China
 The Affect Cognition and Regulation Laboratory, Institute of Brain and Psychological Sciences, Sichuan Normal University, Chengdu 610066, China

Abstract

As a self-transcendent emotion, awe refers to an immediate emotional response or a sustained feeling to various stimuli. The experience of awe is profound and of great significance not only for individual growth but also for social progress. To systematically understand and better conduct future research on awe, this study first illustrates the definition of awe and its widespread functions on prosocial behaviors, well-being, cognition, and self-consciousness. Then, the neuroscientific literature is reviewed, where findings show that the neural basis of awe involves multiple brain regions related to self-consciousness, cognitive control, attention, and emotion. The review also discusses the application of awe in clinical treatments, especially in transpersonal psychotherapy, to inspire individuals to promote spiritual development. Lastly, recommendations on how awe can guide future research are presented.

Keywords:

awe, self-transcendent emotion, definition, functions, neural basis, application in psychotherapy
Received: 01 March 2020 Revised: 13 May 2020 Accepted: 22 May 2020 Published: 19 March 2021 Issue date: January 2021
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Publication history

Received: 01 March 2020
Revised: 13 May 2020
Accepted: 22 May 2020
Published: 19 March 2021
Issue date: January 2021

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© The Author(s) 2020

Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. NNSF31671164, 31871103, and 31971018‬), and the Humanity and Social Science Youth Foundation of the Chinese Ministry of Education (No. 17XJC190004).

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