In Awe of Each Other: An Exploration of Awe in Close Relationships

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Awe Experience
Positive Emotion
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Graziosi, Marianna

This capstone seeks to further what is known about the complex emotion of awe. In most studies on awe, the stimuli used to elicit the emotion involves nature, music, space, or grand theories – but awe elicited by the actions of other people has generally not been studied. The current study explores whether awe can be elicited in close interpersonal relationships and how this experience may be distinct from awe elicited by other stimuli. This capstone begins by exploring awe in the existing psychological literature, focusing on findings related to awe in the interpersonal domain. Then, an empirical study (N = 636) on awe is described. Using both quantitative and qualitative approaches, this mixed methods study found empirical support for the claim that awe is elicited by close relationships, referred to here as Interpersonal Awe. Interpersonal awe seems to sit somewhere between the experience of awe in nature and general positivity, as revealed by significant differences in ratings of awe between all three conditions. Qualitative analyses revealed that Interpersonal Awe was defined by themes of virtue or excellence of character. Interpersonal Awe is positioned as a distinct form of emotional experience, distinguished from related states of admiration and elevation, and, lastly, discussed in terms of the implications of these findings for well-being. Perhaps awe, while an ordinary response to the extraordinary, is also an extraordinary response to the ordinary.

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