Repository logo

The protective role of awe on self-focused attention and depressive symptoms




Sung, Angelina, author
Steger, Michael F., advisor
Emery, Noah N., advisor
Prince, Mark A., committee member
Luong, Gloria, committee member

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Depression is a public health concern that negatively affects millions of individuals living in the United States. Maladaptive self-focused attention has been found to strongly predict the onset and maintenance of depressive symptoms. Awe is a positive emotion that may protect against this cognitive vulnerability given its ability to elicit the "small self." The present study examined whether awe buffered against the impact of self-focus on depressive symptoms at both the trait and state level. A sample of 286 students were recruited from an undergraduate research pool. Participants completed an online survey that assessed for different measures of self-focus (i.e., first-person singular pronouns, rumination), trait positive emotions, depressive symptoms, and positive and negative affect. One week later, they were randomized to watch an awe-eliciting video or amusement-eliciting video and subsequently completed another survey that assessed for rumination, "small self" feelings, state positive emotions, and positive and negative affect. Results indicated mixed findings. At the trait level, depressive symptoms were positively associated with rumination (but not first-person singular pronouns). This positive association between self-focus and depressive symptoms was attenuated as levels of awe increased when using the measure of rumination, but not the measure of first-person singular pronouns. At the state level, rumination was positively associated with "small self" feelings. In addition, no interaction was found between the effects of the awe inductions and "small self" feelings in relation to rumination. While researchers have proposed that awe has a potential therapeutic role in depression, this study appears to be the first to provide empirical support at the trait level. Future research should examine the relationship between rumination and "small self" feelings or consider more potent elicitors of awe when understanding its effects at the state level.


2023 Spring.
Includes bibliographical references.

Rights Access


positive emotions


Associated Publications