Towards a conceptual clarification of awe and wonder

A first person phenomenological enquiry
  • Ulrich WegerEmail author
  • Johannes Wagemann


Awe and wonder are precious but elusive psychological states that are difficult to research experimentally. We conducted a first person phenomenological enquiry in an effort to explore awe and wonder conceptually. Awe is typically described as a state in which vastness and the need to adjust to new information is experienced. Based on a literature review and on observations from our phenomenological exploration we propose that vastness and need to adjust are not necessary, only possible characteristics of awe and wonder. Both phenomena are characterized by a range of other critical attributes that we with explored in our enquiry, such as receptiveness and quality of attention. They can also be differentiated on a number of dimensions - for instance by the extent to which they evoke the experience of a subject/object divide. We propose a set of qualifications to the existing concepts and discuss the relevance of awe and wonder in research settings where such approach-related capacities provide an important complement to the common mindset of skepticism and critique.


Awe Wonder Qualitative research Consciousness Consciousness research 



This work was supported by the Software AG Stiftung.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

Participants in this research were only the authors of the research article. No further participants were involved. Participation in this project involved no risks that went beyond the risks of normal life.

Conflict of Interest

We have no conflict of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Witten/HerdeckeWittenGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KentCanterburyUK
  3. 3.Integrated Curriculum Anthroposophic PsychologyUniversity of Witten HerdeckeWittenGermany
  4. 4.Alanus University, Campus MannheimMannheimGermany

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