The proposed research will pursue four aims in seeking to understand the universals of awe, as well as its cultural variations across religions and cultural contexts. First, in twenty different cultures we will gather people's narratives of their experiences of awe (as well as comparison emotions) and their visual representations of their experiences of awe. This study will uncover the universal semantic components of awe across religions, levels of economic development, and social values, and shed light on the common substance of the experience of the awe across different cultures. Then, in over 20 cultures we will do systematic studies of awe-related facial displays and vocalizations to capture the universal signal of awe and its cultural variations. This library of universal awe expressions will help us understand the evolutionary origins of awe, that is how it emerged in mammalian evolution, and how it is situated within different cultural practices, from chanting to prayer to music. We then will do in-depth studies of the experience of awe in select research sites -- China, Spain, and the US -- to capture how the experience of awe relates to autonomic and genetic measures shown in our lab to predict awe and related constructs. This complex data collection will additionally allow us to uncover how awe shapes the social and intellectual lives of individuals in radically different cultures. And our final line of work, building upon another Templeton funded study, will document how the experience of awe in different cultures triggers curiosity, humility, and prosociality. We believe this research will make awe a focal area of study in the social and biological sciences.
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