For my project, I will be conducting psychological research about the effects of awe on a person’s psyche. It will be using methods from the social sciences. I need to look into specifics on measurement scales to use to measure my constructs. Some further research might include looking deeper into previous research studies to see how they measured awe, and how they separated awe from other emotions that might have been felt during awe-inducing situations. I think I will need to use a variety of techniques to extract all the variables I am hoping to measure from my participants. I know I will need some self-report survey questions to measure not only the feelings of awe, but the self-rated health and well-being as well. I think I will also need an extensive literature review at the beginning of my thesis to explain how I developed my hypothesis and why I think that awe is related to well-being in the first place.
I will need access to participants. I think one of the biggest challenges that I will face is gathering a large and diverse enough sample to make large, generalizing conclusions. I haven’t decided yet whether it would be better to focus my sample on real live people coming into a lab situation on campus, or whether I want to create a strictly online experiment that can be administered through Amazon Turk. There are definitely pros and cons of both types of audiences, and I will need to discuss further with an advisor on which would be the more appropriate technique. I also will need to get my experiment approved by the IRB. This could be difficult if I choose to use a lab setting in which I expose my participants to awe. If awe does create lasting brain changes like I’m hoping I can prove, then it might be tricky to get participants to agree under such conditions.
If I do obtain significant results from my experiment, I think I can use my findings in a variety of applications. Depending on what I discover are the aftereffects of experiencing awe, I can use manufactured experiences of awe to get people to be healthier, more pro-social, or just happier. These applications can be relevant in a business setting to make more cohesive work groups, in a therapy setting to help a person deal with mental illness or overcome trauma, or even in recreational settings to enrich people’s lives in general with more positive emotions. I hope that I can frame a situation in which people can experience awe at all ages that has positive effects on their wellbeing in general.