Aerial view of grand canyon

Credit: Michael Quinn/National Park Service

Seeing the Grand Canyon can awaken a deep appreciation for the world around us and inspire a profound sense of awe, research from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine suggests.

What do the Grand Canyon, Sistine Chapel, and gazing at distant stars all have in common? 

They can awaken a deep appreciation for the world around us and inspire a profound sense of awe. This sensation is often accompanied by an awareness of something larger than ourselves… that we play a small part in an intricate cosmic dance that is life.

But is that experience strictly personal? New research from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine suggests that experiencing awe can actually prompt us to act more benevolently toward others. In other words, awe can help make the world a better place.

“For hundreds of years, people have talked about the importance of awe to human life and interpersonal relations,” says Paul Piff, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. “And just now we are beginning to devise tools for testing it and understanding it.”

Read the full story at the Greater Good Science Center.