Materialism and Awe


  • Emmett McCurdy MacEwan University


Experiencing awe (an emotionally moving shift in frame of reference or expansion of schemata) has been shown to increase generosity, spirituality, and prosociality, and reduce tribalism. The present research used an experimental design to investigate the effects that awe experiences would have on individuals’ endorsement of materialistic values and beliefs. Awe and materialism are theoretically incompatible, as materialism typically emphasizes the individual’s personal acquisitive goals at the expense of non-material goals like fostering interpersonal relationships or seeking self-knowledge and spiritual fulfillment. Additionally, previous research has demonstrated a distinction between types of awe; self-diminishing awe, or that which causes the individual to consider a frame of reference far larger than themselves and their own goals, is of particular relevance to the present study. Considering previous research and this theoretical incompatibility, it was hypothesized that exposure to awe-inducing stimuli would decrease participants’ endorsement of materialist values and attitudes, as assessed by the Material Values Scale (MVS) and the Belk Materialism Scale (BMS). Participants were asked to fill out a number of self-report inventories and to watch a video or audio manipulation halfway through the materialism measures, providing a pre- and post-test for self-reported materialism. Self-esteem and dispositional awe were controlled for using the Self-Liking/Self-Competency scale (SCLS) and the awe subscale of the Dispositional Positive Emotions scale (DPES) respectively. Results showed a significant main effect across all three conditions (including control), but no significant differences between conditions. Implications, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.

Department: Psychology

Faculty Mentor: Dr. David C. Watson