Awesome! How Awe Expands Time

'Time expands in the tube'. So said 1970s pro-surfer Wayne Lynch, referring to the delicate art of tuberiding. It's since become a maxim, a cliche, a canard – used by clothing companies on posters and carrierbags laying claim to any image, aphorism or object that helps to convert a rarified and mainly privileged, white, wealthy hobby into hard currency. 

But at the heart of the statement is a kernel of truth, the way the human brain has of exaggerating the moment of being awestricken. In Lynch's case, by the enveloping embrace of cubic tonnes of salty H2O, warping itself into shapes that defy any normal sense of gravity or fluid dynamics. For others, it could be a cathedral or a choir. Time expands when we're in awe.

It also expands in Thursday afternoon double-history lessons, but the researchers didn't touch on that.


Being in awe can expand time and enhance well-being

It doesn't matter what we've experienced – whether it's the breathtaking scope of the Grand Canyon, the ethereal beauty of the Aurora Borealis, or the exhilarating view from the top of the Eiffel Tower – at some point in our lives we've all had the feeling of being in a complete and overwhelming sense of awe.

Awe seems to be a universal emotion, but it has been largely neglected by scientists—until now.

Psychological scientists Melanie Rudd and Jennifer Aaker of Stanford University Graduate School of Business and Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management devised a way to study this feeling of awe in the laboratory. Across three different experiments, they found that jaw-dropping moments made participants feel like they had more time available and made them more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to volunteer time to help others.

The researchers found that the effects that awe has on decision-making and well-being can be explained by awe's ability to actually change our subjective experience of time by slowing it down. Experiences of awe help to brings us into the present moment which, in turn, adjusts our perception of time, influences our decisions, and makes life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

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