College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-8-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kimberly Quinn, PhD

Second Advisor

Leah E. Bryant, PhD

Third Advisor

Verena Graupmann, PhD


Awe is an overwhelming feeling of admiration sometimes mixed with wonder or fear. Inspired by a cross-disciplinary review of perspectives on awe, we constructed a new measure that would reflect all of these perspectives. In this dissertation, I introduce the Situational Awe Scale (SAS) and report a set of studies designed to validate the measure. An exploratory factor analysis in Study 1 suggested a four-factor structure (i.e., liberation/connection, oppression/isolation, chills, and small-self/vast-world); the study also provided initial evidence of the measure’s convergent and criterion validity. Study 2 provided evidence for the structural validity of the SAS, by confirming the factor structure uncovered in Study 1, and replicated the convergent and criterion validity evidence. Study 3 established that the SAS truly assesses situational awe by demonstrating that SAS scores varied in response to situations that elicit more versus less awe; Study 3 also provided evidence that the SAS possesses discriminant validity. Study 4 extended the construct (structural, convergent, criterion, and discriminant) validity of the SAS to a field setting (Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago). Study 5 again provided evidence for the convergent, criterion, and discriminant validity of the SAS. Studies 4–5 also attempted to investigate the role of prior knowledge in the experience of awe, with mixed results. Across five studies, we constructed and validated the SAS, and began to explore its relationship with knowledge. The research reported in this dissertation supports the construct validity of the SAS and lays the groundwork for fruitful future investigation into the determinants and outcomes of awe.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons