Project 5: Wonder and Human Flourishing
This project tests two sets of hypotheses. The first set concerns children’s sense of wonder: children differ in a) their proneness to wonder; b) the things (situations, objects, experiences) that evoke their wonder; c) the type(s) of wonder they are (most) prone to; and d) the emotions that accompany their wonder or to which their wonder leads.
The second set concerns the connection between wonder and human flourishing.
a) Proneness to wonder is a trait with two aspects: the likelihood that external stimuli elicit the response of wonder; the likelihood that a child will ‘generate’ wonder also in the absence of specific external ‘wonderful’ stimuli. Some children may need little or no external stimuli to experience wonder, others may need strong external stimuli, like a 3D cinematic space flight experience. b) Very different things may elicit wonder in one child than in the other – the beauty of nature, human accomplishments, or simply any experience of something being beyond (immediate) comprehension. Wonder may be elicited by these things through media or without mediation, as when a child is on a ramble through a nature area. c) Children may also differ in the type of wonder they are (most) prone to. Some may be more prone to inquisitive wonder, others to contemplative wonder. d) Wonder may be accompanied by various emotions: joy, admiration, awe, fear, sadness, and many others. These colour the experience of wonder; this in turn influences what children will do with their wonder, and what their wonder will lead them to do – will it act as a stimulus to inquiry? Will it nourish the search for meaning? Or will it close these down?
The second set of hypotheses concerns the connection between wonder and human flourishing. We will investigate the following hypotheses: 1) There is a positive correlation between proneness to inquisitive/contemplative wonder and subjective well-being; 2) There is a positive correlation between proneness to contemplative wonder and i) empathy, ii) humility, iii) appreciation of beauty and excellence, and iv) spirituality; 3) Proneness to wonder is positively correlated with curiosity (medium-high correlation); this is more so for inquisitive than for contemplative wonder; 4) Proneness to wonder is positively correlated with i) creativity, and ii) love of learning. Connections between wonder and background variables (intelligence, gender, religious background, cultural capital, family SES) are also investigated.