Awe Arises in Reaction to Exceeded Rather Than Disconfirmed Expectancies

Małgorzata A. Gocłowska, Andrew J. Elliot, Michiel van Elk, Dominika Bulska, Christopher A. Thorstenson, Matthijs Baas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


Awe is a fascinating emotion, associated with positive consequences such as greater prosociality, generosity, and epistemic openness. Unfortunately, in spite of the weighty consequences of awe, the exact way in which it arises, and what it entails, is still a puzzle. Particularly puzzling is the question of whether awe is the result of expectancy violation. While awe is thought to arise in reaction to expectancy-objects or events, classical expectancy violations (e.g., a red queen of spades playing violations—those that disconfirm and those that exceed one’s expectancies—and we investigated arise in reaction to one versus the other. We also looked at what appraisals important to the awe experience and how they structurally interact. To this, we utilized network analysis and mapped out the network structure of appraisals linked to awe and violations. Across two experimental studies (N = 823), we demonstrated that awe arises in reaction to exceeded (rather than disconfirmed) expectancies and that appraisals linked to exceeded expectancies (uncertainty and inconsistency) are peripheral to the awe experience. Taken together, our on psychologists’ understanding of expectancy violations and reveals entails.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Early online date31 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Dec 2021


  • awe
  • epistemic
  • expectancy
  • uncertainty
  • vastness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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