Professor Dacher Keltner on the significance of awe

A man poses next to a book
In his new book, “Awe,” psychologist Dacher Keltner says awe – the feeling of astonishment and smallness we have in response to mystery – is crucial to well-being.
Courtesy images

When was the last time you felt awe?

For many of us, awe is the result of an experience in nature. Or maybe it’s due to a sudden chill up the spine as you listen to music or read a poem. It might be what happens when you witness selflessness or uncommon kindness in another human being, or something as simple as listening to a child laugh as they lose themselves in play.

Whatever the source, and no matter the culture, Dacher Keltner says the feeling is the same across humankind. Awe produces a humbling and inspiring emotion in our bodies when we encounter something mysterious that transcends our understanding of the world.

A researcher and professor of psychology, Keltner has spent the last few years studying awe and how it moves us. He used unconventional and imaginative methods to measure how awe shrinks a person’s sense of self. He’s talked to countless people about their experiences of awe. And he’s searched for it himself, after the death of his beloved brother.

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This Friday, on Big Books and Bold Ideas, Keltner joined host Kerri Miller to talk about his new book, “Awe.” They delve into his research, talk about how music triggers wonder, and discuss how awe can help us lead healthy and happy lives, both individually and collectively.


To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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