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)
  • andrewh-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:30 p.m.

    We think of nature as big because nature is all around us. When we see a tree, we think of a rainforest or a jungle. But, when I hear the word nature, I think of bugs. And I hate bugs. Bugs are horrible.

  • catherines-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:31 p.m.

    We think of nature as big because nature is surounding us. In the story, it says, "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."

  • alexsandriav-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:33 p.m.

    We think nature is big becaue of awe. The Oxford English Dictionary defines awe. It is a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear and wonder. The research 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 then now.

  • kamrync-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:34 p.m.

    We think that nature as big, because it surrounds us where ever we go. When you look outside and see the stars, it would make you feel like a tiny speck.

  • davidm-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:34 p.m.

    We think that nature is big because when you can think of yourself as a small speck it ecourages fear and awe which is described as "a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder" as in the Oxford English Dictionary paragraph 2. We also think of nature as big because if you think about it, it surrounds us and you can't escape it, like a large national forest and just a really small area with plants, it's still around you. Another reason we think nature is big is because there is a lot that we haven't seen and a lot that will make us go in awe and watch. I wonder if you're falling for a long time, and go into awe while looking at something beautiful will you stop thinking if about falling, also would you die too.

  • madisenl-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:34 p.m.

    We think of nature as big because of awe. The Oxford English Dictionary defines awe as a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear and wonder. So, the state of awe must bring the feeling of smallness and nothingness. We are just a little bit of nothing to the great, humongous, important universe.
    In the great words of Mark Watney, "Human nature is to help one another. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, we send a search and rescue team. If a natural disaster causes terror and destruction, we send supplies." I see that to be true. If the average person saw the great, big universe, they could feel generous and the article states that the feeling of awe makes us more generous. I can see that. The great beyond is really amazing. So awe makes us more generous. I hope the next time someone sees the vast horizon, they think of teachers because we should all be kind and generous to teachers. They don't get paid enough. Why teachers? Just because.

  • davidc-obr
    4/25/2016 - 01:34 p.m.

    The reason why we think nature as "big" is the fact that at first we think we're big, however when we see nature were truly not big though we think we are were not which makes us feel like being kinder and more generous will make us bigger. We also think of nature as big because wherever we go is nature which makes us feel small. Well it might

  • devong-kut
    4/25/2016 - 02:12 p.m.

    That is a nice place. And nature is big. Its also cool what they said this is a cool article.

  • blakes-kut
    4/25/2016 - 05:38 p.m.

    Because there is so much nature. Us compared to nature is a day compared to a life time. You can walk for miles and miles and miles in nature and just get one glimpse of our beautiful earth. Noting compares to it,plus nature isn't small there is so much of it that's why "big" is the perfect word.

  • isabellaa-612-
    4/26/2016 - 09:05 a.m.

    We think of nature as big because nature is surrounding us. In the story, it says, "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."

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