Pathways to the Peak: A Theory of Change to Promote Peak Experiences

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Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



The peak moments of life are also the most transformative. Peak experiences—our moments of rapture, joy, and ecstasy—have a powerful and positive impact on our lives. Based on Abraham Maslow’s work on peak experiences, this capstone presents a theory of change that can be used to develop positive interventions that enable individuals to attain peak experiences and the highest levels of human flourishing. To provide a rationale for the theory of change, this paper begins by discussing the rise of ill-being, diseases of affluence, social disconnection, and environmental degradation. It then reviews the phenomenology, elicitors, and typologies of peak experiences. To build the theory of change, the paper dovetails cognitions and typologies of peak experiences with positive psychology constructs. Peak experiences are operationalized as the overlap of positive emotions, flow, and self-transcendence. The paper also provides an updated typology of peak experiences using positive psychology constructs and presents outcome measures for the theory of change. Finally, the paper discusses the use and application of the theory of change in a variety of contexts.


peak experiences, positive emotions, flow, awe, mystical experiences, Abraham Maslow


Positive Emotions, Well-being/Flourishing


Literature Review

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Date Posted: 25 September 2018