College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-9-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kimberley Quinn, PhD

Second Advisor

Ralph Erber, PhD

Third Advisor

Joseph Mikels, PhD


In this dissertation, I adopted an appraisal theory approach to differentiating positive and negative experiences of awe. In addition to assessing traditional appraisal dimensions, I focused on self-diminishment and connectedness as the appraisals hypothesized to best differentiate awe by valence. I predicted that self-diminishment and connectedness would interact to determine whether awe is experienced as positive or negative, arguing that feeling “small” can be positive if paired with feeling connected but that feeling small can be negative if paired with feeling isolated. An exploratory study (n = 742) induced participants to feel an emotion (positive awe, negative awe, joy, or fear) before rating the descriptiveness of 24 appraisals of the emotion-inducing experience (including self-diminishment and connectedness). Compared to positive awe, negative awe was associated with greater appraisals of need for accommodation, self-diminishment, and isolation, and lower appraisals of connectedness and certainty. Five pilot studies were conducted to validate a video awe induction of awe and essay-based manipulations of self-diminishment and connectedness manipulations. Finally, Experiment 2 (n = 309) tested the theorized model that self-significance and connectedness interact to differentiate positive and negative awe; Experiment 2 also included an exploratory eye-tracking sample (n = 62). Although the predicted interaction was not significant, connectedness was associated with experiencing awe as more positive and less negative. Additional analyses suggested that whether one feels connected or isolated may change whether feelings of significance are experienced positively or negatively. Together, the studies are a further step in using appraisal theory to understand awe’s variants.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons