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Quantifying the If, the When, and the What of the Sublime: A Survey and Latent Class Analysis of Incidence, Emotions, and Distinct Varieties of Personal Sublime Experiences

Pelowski, M; Hur, YJ; Cotter, KN; Ishizu, T; Christensen, AP; Leder, H; McManus, IC; (2019) Quantifying the If, the When, and the What of the Sublime: A Survey and Latent Class Analysis of Incidence, Emotions, and Distinct Varieties of Personal Sublime Experiences. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 10.1037/aca0000273. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Sublime encounters provide a compelling example of the peaks of our shared emotional and cognitive experiences. For centuries, these have been a target for philosophy and, more recently, for psychology, with its renewed focus on profound or aesthetic events. The sublime has been theoretically connected to multiple contexts, from interactions with overpowering nature, to beauty, music, even interpersonal engagements, and to multiple emotions—danger, awe, pleasure, fear—often with diametrically opposing arguments for what constitutes these events. However, despite this prolonged discussion, there is still a scarcity of actual systematic research. It is not known whether sublime encounters are common, nor how they are described by individuals, or if reports match theoretical arguments: Are there one or more, or no, distinct sublime types? We address these questions by matching historical discussions to 402 participants’ (Western adults) reports of whether they have ever experienced the sublime and, if so, how these are described in terms of cognitive/emotional and contextual factors. Roughly half reported having had at least one sublime experience, with accounts involving a range of contexts that essentially cover the full spectrum of past theoretical arguments. At the same time, when we considered the cognitive/affective descriptions using network science and latent class analysis of reported feelings, 90.8% fit one model, with involved communities (or interrelated clusters) of positive emotions, discrepancy, self-awareness, transformation/insight, and, notably, not including negative emotions/fear. We conclude with a discussion of how this approach and findings might be used as a basis for considering sublime theory and shaping future research.

Type: Article
Title: Quantifying the If, the When, and the What of the Sublime: A Survey and Latent Class Analysis of Incidence, Emotions, and Distinct Varieties of Personal Sublime Experiences
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1037/aca0000273
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000273
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Cell and Developmental Biology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10087290
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