Feelings of awe can arise in response to many different stimuli. They make us literally feel small and insignificant and reduce the focus on our self.
As many famous scientists have noted, ranging from William James to Albert Einstein and from Paul Tillich to Richard Dawkins, the experience of awe and wonder may be considered a fundamental and uniquely human phenomenon.
In different research projects we focus on the causes and consequences of the experience of awe.
We discovered for instance that when people are immersed in an awe experience, the default-mode network is de-activated, likely reflecting a reduced tendency to engage in self-referential processing. The paper has been published in Human Brain Mapping and can be found here