Feeling small, in awe of nature, makes people more generous
Feeling small, in awe of nature, makes people more generous Monument Valley (Thinkstock)
Feeling small, in awe of nature, makes people more generous
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From the majestic towers of Monument Valley to the stars painted on the ceiling of Grand Central Station, awe-inspiring wonders are all around. Sometimes taking a moment to stop and appreciate something like the Grand Canyon or a clear, starry night can make you feel like a tiny part of a vast universe swirling around. And that feeling of being a small speck might actually make you a kinder, more generous person.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines awe. It is "a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder." Now comes the research. It was done by teams from the University of California Berkeley and UC Irvine. They found that experiencing awe might make people help each other out more.
 
"Our investigation indicates that awe, although often fleeting and hard to describe, serves a vital social function." So said Paul Piff in a statement. He is an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. "By diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, awe may encourage people to forgo strict self-interest to improve the welfare of others."
 
The researchers exposed participants to images of nature. They included video clips from the BBC series Planet Earth. Then Piff and his team asked questions. The researchers measured ethical behavior. They also measured generosity. Those who reported feeling a sense of awe or recalled a time when they felt awe displayed more ethical behavior as opposed to someone who felt pride. This is according to Adam Hoffman, writing for the Greater Good Science Center.
 
This wasn't just about pretty images of animals. After all, awe is defined partly by the fear one feels in the face of something larger than themselves. In fact, the same generous behavior was detected in people who were shown scenes of natural disasters. That's according to Hoffman. Whether it was watching scenes of the Amazonian rainforest or a violent volcanic eruption, participants were more willing to share resources with each other afterwards.
 
Awe doesn't just inspire ethical behavior. Recent studies suggest that experiencing awe may boost your immune system. And it could make you feel more creative. It can even make you feel that you have more time to get things done.
 
"When people experience awe they really want to share that experience with other people," Piff tells Hoffman. Piff says it suggests, "that it has this particularly viral component to it.  Maybe this is yet another way that awe binds people together." People just naturally want to share their positive experiences with each other, Piff says.

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/feeling-small-awe-nature-makes-people-more-generous/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do we think of nature as “big?”
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (56)
  • owenp-kut
    4/25/2016 - 08:43 a.m.

    Whenever i'm in awe I always feel nicer. I agree being in awe might be very good for you. If it is so good for you, why aren't we taking the time to look at the stars, or observe the nature. People should take advantage of the great wonders of the world we live in.

  • hannahl-kut
    4/25/2016 - 09:46 a.m.

    This was a great article because we need to pay more attention to this world because maybe one day it wont be as interesting or something could destroy our nature. So we need to respect our nature and pay attention to it!

  • marisola-Orv
    4/25/2016 - 11:25 a.m.

    Because nature is all around us. Nature is a wonderful thing that we are blessed with so. We need to cherish it because our trees are being cut down. Our animals are dying because of wild fires that we start we need to take good care of nature.

  • alannah-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:20 p.m.

    Because there are lots of animals and plants all over the world, I know it might not seem like a lot, but there are still plants and animals that we haven't descovered yet. Just think about it, if we found all the plants and animals, our world would seem bigger, but it doesn't grow.

  • lillianh-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:21 p.m.

    I believe we think of nature as bigger than us is because it does more than a human and it is much bigger than us.

  • marcc-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:24 p.m.

    I think why people think nature is big because, after all, awe is partly by the fears and face one is larger than themselvs. When humans think about nature, they think of somthing big and also becuase nature is surrounding us. Nature is most of the "Good Looking'' things to look at and experience when you are close up to it. It can be very nice

  • alexisa-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:27 p.m.

    Us humans think of nature as big because, "After all, awe is defend partly by the fears in face one is something larger than themselves." When humans thinkof nature they think of something big because nature is constantly surrounding us and towering over us when we walk through a forest or a jungle. Nature is considered big because when someone says nature people can automaticlly think of a huge forest taking acres of land, but we are mostly on thinking of the untouched or unharmed things in nature. My opinionis that nature is one of the prettiest things to look at and experience when you are up close to it because it can be very beautiful.

  • stevend-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:27 p.m.

    Why do we think of nature as big? We think of nature as big because there are such big things in the world, like the Grand Canyon or a clear, night sky can make you feel small. The feeling of being small can make someone kinder. It can also make you a more generous person.

  • ellas-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:28 p.m.

    Humans think of nature as big because we are small compared to the vast wilderness or anywhere cool, like New York City or the Amazonian jungle. We are just little specks on Earth, which is just a little speck in the galaxy and the galaxy is a little speck in the universe! And somehow, this makes people more generous.

  • albrimz-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:29 p.m.

    In this summary I will tell you why do we think of nature as big. The reason we think of nature big, because of the creatures that are living there and the lives of many different species. We can also think of nature as a humungous place, because animals are in every part of the world. That is why we think of nature big.

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