September 2019
Volume 19, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2019
Immersive experience of awe increases the scope of visuospatial attention: A VR study
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Muge Erol
    New School for Social Research
  • Arien Mack
    New School for Social Research
Journal of Vision September 2019, Vol.19, 285a. doi:
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      Muge Erol, Arien Mack; Immersive experience of awe increases the scope of visuospatial attention: A VR study. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):285a.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Earlier we reported evidence that awe increases attention to global over local features (Erol & Mack, 2018). The current study investigates whether awe increases the breadth of visuospatial attention as measured by Functional Field of View (FFOV). FFOV is “the area around the fixation point from which information is being briefly stored and read out during a visual task” (Mackworth, 1965, p.67). Each participant first completed 80 FFOV trials, then observed a mood induction video, and finally repeated the FFOV test. Each of 45 participants (15 per group) was exposed to one of 3 possible ~3 minute, 360° immersive virtual reality videos: one induced awe, one amusement, and one was neutral. The FFOV task entailed arrays containing one letter (D, G, J or L) at fixation and 40 small rectangles, each placed at 5 increasing degrees of eccentricity (3° through 15°) from fixation in 8 possible directions, presented for 50ms and masked for 250ms. On each trial, a different digit (1 through 9) appeared randomly inside one of the rectangles. Participants immediately reported the central letter, and then identified and localized the peripheral digit. There were no pretest differences among the groups at any eccentricity. Importantly, after mood induction, the awe group improved significantly at identifying (F(2,42)=3.405, p< .05) and localizing (F(2,42)=3.879, p< .05) the digit at 12°, and localizing it at 15° (F(2,42)=4.061, p< .05). Moreover, higher self-reported awe ratings correlated with improved performance in digit identification at 9° (r=.29) and 12° (r=.35) and digit localization at 12° (r=.33) and 15° (r=.39). These results indicate that awe increases the breadth of spatial attention and taken together with our earlier findings, suggest that awe has a predictable broadening and globalizing effect on perception. They are the first reported evidence of the impact of awe on what we see.


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