Some moments of awe..

There are times in our lives in which we felt totally at ease with the whole universe, perfectly in balance with the rest of human (and non human) being.

For me, these moments are marked by music. Without it, life would be a pure and endless instant of isolation. Music is the punctuation, it reminds us of some missing parts of life we usually take for granted.

As Huron stated (2006), the violation of expectations is the key for emotions in music..and even there are not many documented examples of  musically  induced awe, I just want to share with you my personal moments of musical awe…The one that makes me think of music as one of the main drivers of this ineffable experience..






for me now it’s time to produce besides speculating…so, I would like to share with you some of my recent considerations on the nature of current awe- inducing techniques.

As you know, according to the reference model on awe (Keltner & Haidt, 2003), awe is a delicate emotion (maybe more than just an emotion) fostered by vast and overwhelming stimuli able to challenge our worldview and to call us into question. Therefore, two are the main features of awe:

  1. Vastness, both in physical and conceptual terms (inspired to Piff et al., 2015, study 5)

Light streaming through forest

Tall Trees of awe (Piff et al., 2015)

2. Need for accommodation (we cannot stand our worldview anymore because it lacks of validity, it is not able to explain the concrete experience we are living).

To date, experimental manipulation on awe was based on the tacit assumption that these two components are closely related, therefore if you concentrate on vast stimuli, then you will experience also a need for accommodation. But is it true?

Shurtz et al. (2012) would not agree, since they demonstrated that these two components are not related, almost not linearly.

But, how can we design awe-inducing experience able to grasp also this fleeting dimension of need for accommodation? In other words, how can we find some sound designing principles orienting us in the creation of impressive, relevant awe-experiences able to challenge a person’s worldview (of course, in a safe way)?

My tutor and I suggest that Virtual Reality could be a possible solution able to support the emergence of this dimension and to study the whole awe- emergent process according to a more ecological perspective.

Some examples of unusual laboratory experiences that allow people to see themselves from a drastically new point of view. On the left a participant undergoing an experiment of full body swapping (Petkova & Ehrsson, 2008). On the right, the virtual reality induced illusion of being a 4-years old child (Banakou, Groten & Slater, 2013).

We also think that another instrument could be necessary to trigger a perceived relevance of people regarding a specific awe-induced experience. But what kind of instrument?

Just let me know what you think about it. Do you share this perspective? Are there other possibile and useful way to induce an authentic experience of awe?


Hope to read some comments, criticism and suggestions soon!