Change happens when we feel like we can make a difference.

That's why it is so important to understand what empowers people to come together and make an impact on some of today's biggest problems.

Scientists are working toward technical solutions to pressing social issues that disproportionately impact vulnerable populations, including poverty, climate change, racism, and the COVID-19 pandemic. But even if we have the tools to solve a problem like climate change, we can’t make progress if the scope of the challenge simply leaves people feeling overwhelmed and helpless.

That is where self-transcendence comes in. Our science demonstrates how we can help people attune to social problems and energize them to take collective action. It shows us how people take a traumatic or negative experience like a pandemic and draw meaning from it, learn about the experiences of others, cultivate compassion within themselves, and take action in constructive and cohesive ways.

Our research on self-transcendence fosters compassion, understanding, and action through scientific research, education, service programs, and outreach. We are inspiring the next generation of leaders and engaging community stakeholders to use the power of self-transcendence to solve the world's most pressing problems.


We are advancing the scientific understanding of self-transcendence. Building compassion, empathy, awe, and wonder can help ameliorate many of our most pressing social and environmental problems, from poverty and inequality, through mental and physical health, to climate change and nature loss.

Latest Research News

New Article: Real-World Awe and Prosociality

In a new research article, Blum Center Associate Director Paul Piff, along with Sean Goldy and Nickolas Jones, suggest that “awesome” natural […]

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In the News: Paul Piff’s research on the benefits of awe through nature

In collaboration with L.L. Bean, Blum Center Associate Director Dr. Paul Piff is working on research regarding the various benefits of the […]

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Paul Piff Interviewed by BBC Business Daily

Blum Center Assistant Director Paul Piff was recently interviewed for BBC’s Business Daily podcast. The episode explores the effects of wealth and […]

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Research Leads

Photo by Kendrick Brinson

Paul Piff (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Science at the University of California, Irvine. His primary interests are in how social hierarchy, economic inequality and social class, and social emotion shape relations between individuals and groups.

Pia Dietze Photo

Pia Dietze (Ph.D., New York University) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Science researching how disparities in the economic conditions of the lives of different social class groups shape their social attitudes, attention, and appraisals. Her research employs a variety of cutting-edge tools, including psychophysiology, virtual reality, social media engagement, and reaction times.


Angela Robinson (Ph.D., University of California, Irvine) is a postdoctoral scholar interested in how group identities such as race and gender influence social behavior. Her research examines how group-related perceptions and attitudes shape political participation and community engagement.


We are committed to educating students about the science of self-transcendence and how this knowledge can be applied to their lives, families, communities, and careers.


We help students put self-transcendence into practice through immersive service opportunities. These programs offer students a way to address community needs and develop leadership skills.


We create educational and participation opportunities for the public to inspire self-transcendence and more compassionate leadership in our local communities.

In the News