A Link Between Awe And Generosity

Thanks to Barry Hessenius for providing my post topic today. He sent a link to an Inc magazine piece titled “Want to Raise Kind, Generous Kids? Take Them to an Art Museum.” Readers will know that I am not really big on discussion of art as a prescriptive solution based on inchoate theories and research. So I was interested to see they connected the sense of awe art generates to an increased generous impulse.

Certainly, museums make children more worldly and cultured, but how do they make them kinder? The link, according to the new study, recently published in Psychological Science, is awe. A whole line of research, and a much talked about new book, shows that experiencing awe can help adults. Feeling a sense of smallness in front of sites greater and grander than you–be that the Mona Lisa or the Milky Way–tends to tamp down runaway egos and make adults humbler, kinder, and more relaxed. This latest research looked to see if awe would have the same effect on children.

The research was conducted with 159 kids aged 8 to 13 so I am a little cautious about any definitive statements based on such a small sample size, but the results pointed to exposure creating a tendency to be more generous.

Of course, art isn’t the only source of awe in our lives. The article says ” simply looking for the awe-inspiring in the everyday can increase our perception of awe and its associated benefits” even if you don’t have ready access to museums. Some people experience awe from the natural beauty present in their every day activities, for example.

The bottom line is that nudging your kids to notice and appreciate the greatness and grandeur of the world around them won’t just make them more observant and aesthetically appreciative. The latest science shows it will also nudge them to be humble, kind, and caring.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


Leave a Comment