Transformative technology : examining the capacity of virtual reality induced awe to change self-transcendent values and improve hedonic and eudaimonic well-being
Awe is an emotion that tends to shift focus away from individual concerns of the self towards collective interests that transcend the self. The primary purpose of the current study was to examine whether an experimentally induced experience of awe, compared to amusement, had the potential to change participant's self-transcendent values of universalism (e.g., preserving nature and a world at peace) and benevolence (e.g., honesty and concern for the welfare of others). The secondary purpose was to examine whether awe influenced same and next day hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Feelings of a small self and connectedness (to self, others, and nature) were hypothesized to mediate any effects of awe on changes in values and well-being. Participants were 240 University students who, after completing a baseline survey to assess values, were randomly assigned to either a 5-minute virtual reality (VR) experience of awe or amusement. Then, participants completed a post-test survey assessing values, emotions, connectedness and small self. Between conditions and within-individuals analyses showed that neither manipulation significantly increased participants prioritization of self-transcendent values. Participants from both conditions reported high levels of awe, however, which was correlated with higher hedonic (i.e., positive and negative affect, life satisfaction) and eudaimonic (i.e., meaning, purpose, vitality, basic psychological needs satisfaction) well-being. Feelings of connectedness mediated this relationship between awe and both types of well-being. Although there was little support for the primary hypotheses regarding the effects of awe, compared to amusement, on self-transcendent values, this study uncovered interesting findings about associations between awe, connectedness, and well-being.
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