Two particular features of the astronauts’ views seem to contribute to feelings of awe. First, the juxtaposition of Earth’s features against the black vacuum of space might be sufficient to emphasize themes both perceptual (beauty, activity, visible signatures of human civilization) and conceptual (vitality, interconnectedness, preciousness). Second, the difference in visual orientation toward familiar landmarks might be sufficient to elicit conceptual awe, creating a surreal effect by presenting well-known natural and human features from a radically different perspective.
from The Overview Effect (2016)
David B. Yaden Jr. (Ph.D., University of Oklahoma) is Professor of Language, Reading and Culture at the University of Arizona College of Education. Prior to his present position at UA, he held appointments at Emory University, the University of Houston, and the University of Southern California. He has been a principal investigator in the federally-funded Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA) where he supervised the implementation of an early literacy curriculum for Spanish-speaking preschoolers in inner-city Los Angeles. His research interests and specializations include developmental issues in early childhood education, the acquisition of literacy and biliteracy in young children, family literacy, theories of reading disability and the application of complex adaptive systems theory to growth in reading and writing.
≈ 28 minutes
Viewing the Earth from space has often prompted astronauts to report overwhelming
emotion and feelings of identification with humankind and the planet as a whole. In this
article, we explore this experience, known as the “overview effect.” We examine
astronaut accounts of the overview effect and suggest existing psychological constructs,
such as awe and self-transcendent experience, that might contribute to a psychological
understanding of this experience. We argue that the overview effect suggests directions
for future research on altered states of consciousness in new contexts, with potential
implications for better understanding well-being in isolated, confined, extreme (ICE)
environments such as space flight.
Published in the March 2016 issue of Psychology of Consciousness by the American Psychological Association.