Being impressed makes people more patient, more altruistic and less materialistic, a new study revealed.
Whether it's the majestic view of the Grand Canyon, the ethereal beauty of the Aurora Borealis, or the exhilarating view from the top of the Empire State Building, we've all have experienced an overwhelming sense of awe at some point in our lives.
Researchers from the latest study said that until recently, the universal emotion of being in awe or impressed has largely been neglected by scientists.
Psychological scientists Melanie Rudd and Jennifer Aaker of Stanford University Graduate School of Business and Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management devised three different experiments to study the emotion of feeling awe in the laboratory.
In the first experiment, participants were randomly assigned to watch an awe-eliciting one minute commercial depicting people in city streets and parks encountering and interacting seemingly realistic images, such as waterfalls, whales, and astronauts in space, ended up feeling like they had more time left to complete a task compared to participants who watched happiness-eliciting clips.
In a second experiment, a different set of participants were randomly assigned to write a short personal narrative either of an experience that made them feel aw or of an experience that made them feel happy.
Participants who wrote about being impressed not only felt less impatient when researchers put them in time constraining environments, they also were more satisfied with life and more willing to self-sacrifice by donating more time and money than participants in the happiness group.
In the third experiment, participants were asked to read a short story and encouraged to feel as the character in the story would have felt. Subjects were randomly assigned to the awe condition where they read a story about ascending the Eiffel Tower and seeing Paris from on high or to a neutral condition where participants read about ascending an unnamed tower and seeing a plain landscape from on high.
After participants were primed with their assigned emotion, researcher asked participants to make hypothetical choices between experiential and material goods of the same price, like choosing a $10 movie theater pass or a $10 gas card, and found that participants in the awe group were significantly more likely to go for the experiential gift, where as those in the neutral group were more likely to pick materialistic gifts.
Researchers conclude that the effects that awe has on our decision making and well-being can be explained by the ability of a jaw-dropping event to change our subjective experience of time, by bringing our consciousness into the present moment, which in turn changes of perception of time, influences our decisions, and makes life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise.