Inspiring feelings of awe in children through the arts tends to lead them to become more generous as adults, according to research conducted by researchers at the University of Amsterdam and the University of California, Berkeley.

What to Know

  • Experiencing awe-inspiring films, movies, music, or theater performances can encourage children as young as 8 years to prioritize other people's well-being and forgo self-gain.

  • Study participants aged 8 to 13 years viewed one of three film clips that had been demonstrated┬áto elicit feelings of awe, joy, or neutrality in the researchers' previous pilot studies. The investigators asked children to make choices that would help benefit refugee families.

  • Children who watched the awe-inspiring video chose to count 50% more items for a food drive than children who watched the joy-inspiring clip and more than twice as many items as children who watched the neutral clip.

  • Children in the awe-inspiring group were also two to three times more likely to donate their reward for participating in the study than children in the joyful or neutral groups.

  • Researchers also measured the respiratory sinus arrhythmia of children while they watched mood-inducing videos and found that breathing and heart rate increased in response to the awe-inspiring video and decreased in response to joyful and neutral videos.

This is a summary of the article, "Awe Sparks Prosociality in Children," published in Psychological Science on February 7, 2023. The full article can be found on journals.sagepub.com.

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