Awe Inspires a Feeling of Expanded Time

By Chelsea Whyte on July 21, 2012 1:09 AM EDT

grand canyon
The sense of awe inspired by the Grand Canyon can make you feel like time is slowing down. (Photo: Creative Commons: B Rosen)

Standing atop the Grand Canyon or laying back to gaze at the stars can inspire a sense of wonder that can actually expand your sense of time, according to new research published in the journal Psychological Science.

Not many emotions make people feel that way, study researcher Melanie Rudd, a graduate student in business at Stanford University, told LiveScience.   

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"We kind of run around with these very hectic day-to-day lives," Rudd said. "To find something out there that actually gives us a feeling of more time - it seems like such a rare event." 

She and her colleagues set up three experiments to measure the effects of awe. In the first, participants were randomly assigned to watch a one-minute awe-inspiring commercial depicting people in city streets and parks encountering seemingly realistic images, such as waterfalls, whales and astronauts in space. After watching the commercial, participants felt they had more time to complete a task compared with another group who had watched a commercial that merely elicited happiness.

In the second experiment, a different set of participants were assigned to write a personal narrative of an experience that made them feel awe or happiness. Those who wrote about an overwhelming sense of wonder were less impatient when researchers placed them in time-constraining environments. They were also more willing to self-sacrifice by donating more time and money than those who wrote about a happy time.

And in a third experiment, participants were asked to read a short story describing a person ascending the Eiffel Tower and seeing Paris from above. A second group read a story about an unnamed tower that looked over a plain landscape. They then filled out questionnaires about patience, volunteerism, life satisfaction and other questions.

After participants were primed with their assigned emotion, researcher asked participants to make hypothetical choices between experiential and material goods of the same price, like choosing a $10 movie theater pass or a $10 gas card, and found that participants in the awe group were significantly more likely to go for the experiential gift, where as those in the neutral group were more likely to pick materialistic gifts, reports Medical Daily.

"One of the interesting things for me was just how much of an impact that this feeling of having more time was to everyday decision-making," Rudd told Live Science. "It was eye-opening to see how that influences so many aspects of your life."

So, next time you're feeling stressed for time, take a moment out for some awe. 

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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