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Review Article | Open Access

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

 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
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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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Stress and Brain
Pages 59-75
Cite this article:
Luo L, Mao J, Chen s, et al. Psychological research of awe: Definition, functions, and application in psychotherapy. Stress and Brain, 2021, 1(1): 59-75.








Received: 01 March 2020
Revised: 13 May 2020
Accepted: 22 May 2020
Published: 19 March 2021
© The Author(s) 2020

Creative Commons Non Commercial CC BY-NC: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission.