Demonstrating the functions of awe in religious systems: empirical and computational approaches

Project Identification
MPG-AZ 6 4 70 70 40 30 21
Project Period
12/2014 - 12/2015
Investor / Pogramme / Project type
Max Planck Gesellschaft
MU Faculty or unit
Faculty of Arts

Awe, an affective response to overwhelmingly vast objects and natural scenery, has recently been hypothesised to contribute to cooperation among the members of religious and political groups while also eliciting perceptions of superhuman agency. After summarising the existing definition of awe, we describe the limited experimental work done to support these proposals. We highlight not only the need for additional empirical evidence, but also the need for further research on aspects of awe’s definition. Pilot studies and a main experiment are proposed for these purposes. A non-experimental modelling study aimed at demonstrating awe’s systematic utilisation by religious groups is also proposed, and all of these lines of enquiry are then discussed in relation to a longer-term grant application by the authors.