Awe, Uncertainty, and Agency Detection

  title={Awe, Uncertainty, and Agency Detection},
  author={Piercarlo Valdesolo and Jesse Graham},
  journal={Psychological Science},
  pages={170 - 178}
Across five studies, we found that awe increases both supernatural belief (Studies 1, 2, and 5) and intentional-pattern perception (Studies 3 and 4)—two phenomena that have been linked to agency detection, or the tendency to interpret events as the consequence of intentional and purpose-driven agents. Effects were both directly and conceptually replicated, and mediational analyses revealed that these effects were driven by the influence of awe on tolerance for uncertainty. Experiences of awe… 

Figures and Tables from this paper

The boundary conditions of the hypersensitive agency detection device: an empirical investigation of agency detection in threatening situations
ABSTRACT It has been hypothesized that humans have evolved a hypersensitivity to detect intentional agents at a perceptual level, as failing to detect these agents may potentially be more harmful
Awe and scientific explanation.
Across 3 studies, consistent support is found that awe decreases the perceived explanatory power of science for the theistic and mixed support that awe affects attitudes toward scientific explanations for the nontheistic.
Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior.
Mediational data demonstrate that the effects of awe on prosociality are explained, in part, by feelings of a small self, and indicate that awe may help situate individuals within broader social contexts and enhance collective concern.
Connecting the dots: Illusory pattern perception predicts belief in conspiracies and the supernatural
It is concluded that illusory pattern perception is a central cognitive mechanism accounting for conspiracy theories and supernatural beliefs.
Priming of supernatural agent concepts and agency detection
In evolutionary approaches to religion it is argued that belief in supernatural agents is strongly related to a perceptual bias to over-detect the presence of agents in the environment. We report
Elicited Awe Decreases Aggression
Awe is a feeling of wonder and amazement in response to experiencing something so vast that it transcends one's current frames of reference. Across three experiments (N = 557), we tested the
Awe, wonder, and the human mind
  • M. Shiota
  • Psychology
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
  • 2021
The human mind is unique in its ability to form, store, and manipulate elaborate conceptual models of the world; yet these models have vast, inevitable gaps. Where the models end, the potential for
Going Off Script: Effects of Awe on Memory for Script-Typical and -Irrelevant Narrative Detail
Results suggest that awe reduces reliance on internal knowledge in processing new events, partly mediated by subjective awe, and independent of other aspects of subjective affect.
Influence of Positive and Threatened Awe on the Attitude Toward Norm Violations
Examination of the influence of positive and threatened awe on tolerance toward deviators’ behavior within the Japanese population indicated that positive awe increased the tolerance of others’ norm violations, while threatening awe did not.


Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception
It is demonstrated that increased pattern perception has a motivational basis by measuring the need for structure directly and showing that the causal link between lack of control and illusory pattern perception is reduced by affirming the self.
The Psychology of Being " Right " : The Problem of Accuracy in Social Perception and Cognition
Several difficulties are noted with general questions psychologists have been asking about human accuracy, such as whether people are typically accurate or inaccurate, what the boundary conditions
The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and effects on self-concept
Awe has been defined as an emotional response to perceptually vast stimuli that overwhelm current mental structures, yet facilitate attempts at accommodation. Four studies are presented showing the
We propose that the tendency to anthropomorphize nonhuman agents is determined primarily by three factors (Epley, Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2007), two of which we test here: sociality motivation and
Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being
Three experiments showed that participants who felt awe, relative to other emotions, felt they had more time available and were less impatient, and these changes in decision making and well-being were due to awe’s ability to alter the subjective experience of time.
Individual differences in need for cognitive closure.
The present findings suggest that the Need for Closure Scale is a reliable and valid instrument of considerable potential utility in future "motivated social cognition" research.
Causes and consequences of mind perception
Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion
It is suggested that two appraisals are central and are present in all clear cases of awe: perceived vastness, and a need for accommodation, defined as an inability to assimilate an experience into current mental structures.