From a foremost expert on the science of emotions and consultant to Pixar’s Inside Out, a groundbreaking and essential exploration into the history, science, and greater understanding of awe
Awe is mysterious. How do we begin to quantify the goose bumps we feel when we see the Grand Canyon, or the utter amazement when we watch a child walk for the first time? How do you put into words the collective effervescence of standing in a crowd and singing in unison, or the wonder you feel while gazing at centuries-old works of art? Up until fifteen years ago, there was no science of awe, the feeling we experience when we encounter vast mysteries that transcend our understanding of the world. Scientists were studying emotions like fear and disgust, emotions that seemed essential to human survival. Revolutionary thinking, though, has brought into focus how, through the span of evolution, we’ve met our most basic needs socially. We’ve survived thanks to our capacities to cooperate, form communities, and create culture that strengthens our sense of shared identity—actions that are sparked and spurred by awe.
In Awe, Dacher Keltner presents a radical investigation and deeply personal inquiry into this elusive emotion. Revealing new research into how awe transforms our brains and bodies, alongside an examination of awe across history, culture, and within his own life during a period of grief, Keltner shows us how cultivating awe in our everyday life leads us to appreciate what is most humane in our human nature. And during a moment in which our world feels more divided than ever before, and more imperiled by crises of different kinds, we are greatly in need of awe. If we open our minds, it is awe that sharpens our reasoning and orients us toward big ideas and new insights, that cools our immune system’s inflammation response and strengthens our bodies. It is awe that activates our inclination to share and create strong networks, to take actions that are good for the natural and social world around us. It is awe that transforms who we are, that inspires the creation of art, music, and religion. At turns radical and profound, brimming with enlightening and practical insights, Awe is our field guide, from not only one of the leading voices on the subject but a fellow seeker of awe in his own right, for how to place awe as a vital force within our lives.
Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and the faculty director of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center. A renowned expert in the biological and evolutionary origins of human emotion, Dr. Keltner studies the science of compassion, awe, love, and beauty, and how emotions shape our moral intuition. His research interests also span issues of power, status, inequality, and social class. He is the author of the best-selling book Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life and of The Compassionate Instinct.