Researchers Sean Goldy and Blum Center Associate Director Paul Piff recently published a commentary in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in response to Edgar Dubourg and Nicolas Baumard’s article on the psychological foundations of fiction with imaginary worlds. 

Goldy and Piff’s commentary focused on awe and its individual and social functions. Building upon Dubourg and Baumard’s claims that people are drawn to imaginary worlds because of a desire for exploration, they expand upon the emotion behind the science. 

Imaginary worlds are, themselves, powerful sources of awe – grasping the audience’s attention with extraordinary features and aspects to explore. Goldy and Piff claim the awe of imaginary worlds can pique interest and curiosity, causing the person enjoying the world to seek out more information in an attempt to build upon what they initially know. Awe-inspiring aspects of the mundane world can create change in reality too – people may be more inclined to engage more with a specific genre in their daily lives, such as being inspired by science fiction to further apply themselves to the field of scientific research. 

This theoretical analysis helps add another dimension to Dubourg and Baumard’s research on finding emotional meaning. You can read the original article here and Goldy and Piff’s commentary here.