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.
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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