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)
  • ashleyt-kut
    4/27/2016 - 10:31 a.m.

    I didn't know that "awe" was such a powerful meaning in the grand canyon. The meaning of "awe" is a feeling of reverential of remixed of feel and wonder. I will always look at the word so different.

  • joeg-orv
    4/27/2016 - 02:51 p.m.

    Human think of nature as "big" because nature surrounds everyone, everyone is constantly in contact with nature from that tree in your front yard to the chirping birds that wake you up in the morning. From the text you can see that nature is big because of the starry nights humans experience, "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." and looking into the vastness of space will make humans think of nature as "big". I found this article interesting because I too can some times feel as a speck in the universe when I look in the night sky. I found this article surprising because I didn't know that just by taking notice of the nature surrounding us can make someone more kind.

  • jahir-orv
    4/27/2016 - 03:20 p.m.

    because only about 35% of the earth is actually human civilization.

  • tiffanyf-1-bar
    4/27/2016 - 06:21 p.m.

    Humans think of nature as "big" because we are constantly surrounded and near nature. Nature is the entire universe and everything inside of it. We humans feel that nature is "big" because we are only these small creatures inside of a small planet inside of a larger universe. The article states,"...something like the Grand Canyon or a clear, starry night can make you feel like a tiny part of a vast universe swirling around." People are so tiny compared to the vast wilderness so it is only natural for us to think of nature as "big". I think this article is interesting because I agree with the idea that seeing nature makes people more generous. When someone sees the world, they think less of themselves, but more of the environment around them causing an individual to feel more generous.

  • summerm-6-bar
    4/27/2016 - 11:55 p.m.

    We think of nature as "big" because of the fact that there is such a great amount to think about it. At whatever point something has a ton of things to find about it or has a great deal of things included with it, it is referenced as large. Urban communities are viewed as large on the grounds that there is such a great amount of happening in them so it is the huge. I thought this article was interesting because I enjoy learning new and fascinating facts about nature.

  • jordans-kut
    4/28/2016 - 07:59 a.m.

    The grand canyon is a great thing on our earth it is such a great view and if you ever get to see it you are very lucky.

  • kaled-2-bar
    4/29/2016 - 12:26 a.m.

    We thing nature as "big" because nature is constantly surrounding us and everything around us is a lot of space. I found this article interesting because I never thought something around us could make us more generous.

  • carolinev-2-bar
    4/29/2016 - 01:50 a.m.

    People think of nature as “big” because nature surrounds them, and has always and will always be larger than any human will ever be. The whole planet is nature and so people will always be smaller than the never ending nature. In paragraph one the article states,"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.” This shows that compared to nature humans will always feel and be smaller than nature.
    I enjoyed this article because I often feel very small compared to nature.

  • nicolettem-2-bar
    4/29/2016 - 05:58 a.m.

    We think of nature as "big" because it's all around us everywhere we go. Really you can't look out a window and not see nature. Another reason people think nature as big is because when people are talking about nature people automatically think of things and places such as forests or the Grand Canyon or anywhere not in the cities. My opinion on this article is that it's super interesting and I love nature and all the amazing surprises it has in it.

  • jennac-orv
    4/29/2016 - 07:42 p.m.

    We think of nature as "big" because we are so small compared to the huge earth. We are surrounded by nature. Natural disasters are so much powerful than us and we are so little compared to the mountains, forests, canyons and the vast ocean. We are only one part of the world.

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