How we Experience Awe

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Neuroscientist Beau Lotto conducted an ambitious study with Cirque du Soleil on the emotion of awe and its psychological and behavioral benefits. In this talk and live performance, he shares some of their findings—and stands back as Cirque du Soleil dancers create their own awe-inducing spectacle.

Beau Lotto seeks to pull aside the curtain of why we see what we do in order to create the possibility and agency in deciding what to perceive next.

Why you should listen

According to Beau Lotto, “I have pretty much two aims: to create doubt through the awareness of perception, and to create space for holding that uncertainty. At its core, that's what science is: it celebrates not knowing in an attempt to find better questions.

“What if we could apply the same way of being to everything we do? What might happen if we entered conflict with a curiosity instead of an anger? The barrier to doing so is that we hate not knowing. But fortunately, evolution gave us a solution to that fear: namely, awe. Understanding how awe and wonder facilitate perception and our perceptual creations is what [my] work in neuroscience is all about.”

Lotto recently collaborated with Cirque du Soleil to conduct an ambitious study on the emotion of awe, proving that experiencing it has far-reaching psychological and behavioral benefits. At TED2019, he was joined onstage by Cirque du Soleil performers in a unique performance that explored the transformational power of awe.

Lotto is the author of Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently and Why We See What We Do.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference.

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