Virtual-reality music-based elicitation of awe: When silence is better than thousands sounds

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Several researches have revealed the potential of awe, a complex emotion arising from vast stimuli able to prompt for a restructuration of people’ mental schema, on wellbeing and health. Despite a lot has been revealed about awe, researchers still face the challenge of eliciting intense instances of awe in a controlled way. A combination of two or more emotion-induction techniques can enhance the intensity of the resulting emotion. VR has resulted as one of the best techniques to elicit awe, but it has never been tested in combination with other effective awe-inducing methods, such as music. Here, we tested the combined effect of VR and music on the resulting awe’s intensity. We randomly assigned 76 healthy participants to one of these four conditions: (i) VR with background sounds (ii) VR and Music, (iii) only Music; (iv) VR without sounds. VR environments and music have been validated in previous studies on awe. Before the exposure to each stimulus, we asked participants to rate the extent to which they felt (i.e., experienced) seven emotions. After the exposure, we measured also how much participants perceived (i.e., they “read” it into the emotional material) each of the seven emotions, as well as their general affect (Positive and Negative Affective Schedule), their sense of presence (i.e., how much participants felt to be “present” within a scene) (ITC-SOPI Inventory), the sense of perceived vastness and need for accommodation associated to the stimulus material (Brief Awe-Scale). We also assessed also participants’ disposition to live seven discrete positive emotions (Dispositional Positive Emotions Scale) and musical preferences (STOMP). “VR with Music” condition elicited a higher (even not significant) sense of ecological validity compared to Music condition. All conditions elicited significantly higher sense of felt awe, joy, and fear compared to the baseline and a significantly lower anger after each condition. Participants in the Music condition felt a lowest sense of amusement after the exposure. We found no effect of condition on felt awe. Conversely, perceived awe was significantly higher in the “VR and Music” condition compared to the Music condition. “VR without sounds” condition elicited significantly higher sense of fear compared to Music condition, and significantly lower sense of pride and sadness compared to Music condition. We found no significant effect for any covariate variable. These results have relevant implications for fundamental research on awe and to design awe-based training enhancing wellbeing health, or targeting severe emotional disorders, such as Depression.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteLecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social-Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering, LNICST
Numero di pagine11
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2019
Evento9th International Conference on Pervasive Computing Paradigms for Mental Health, MindCare 2019 - Argentina
Durata: 23 apr 201924 apr 2019

Serie di pubblicazioni



Convegno9th International Conference on Pervasive Computing Paradigms for Mental Health, MindCare 2019


  • Awe
  • Emotion-induction
  • Felt emotions
  • Music
  • Perceived emotions
  • Silence
  • Virtual reality
  • Wellbeing


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