The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck

“He who can no long pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead…” – Albert Einstein 

Eminent psychologist Nicholas Humphrey has written of the biological advantage of being awestruck. How fortuitous, he says, for a species to find its own ability to contemplate, to marvel at its own existence has been evolutionary advantageous. In other words, it has been biologically selected for, because it informs our life with sense of cosmic significance, that makes us work harder, to persist, and to survive. In other words, “Awe” has helped us to survive.

A recent study out of Stanford University kind of validates this idea. They found that regular incidence of awe leave residual benefits upon the individual that persists, such as increased feelings of empathy and compassion towards others, increased feelings of altruism, increased feeling of general well-being. In this study, they define “Awe” as an experience of such perceptual expansion, such perceptual vastness you literally have to re-configure, upgrade your mental schematic, just to accommodate, just to take in the scale of the experience.

photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video
video: Jason Silva