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Anatomy of Awe: An Invitation to Expand Our Mind and Explore Our Boundaries

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June 7th at Noon ET / 11:00am CT (60 minutes)

Guest Speakers: Dr. Anthony Barnhart, Chair of the Department of Psychology at Carthage College and Dr. Kateryna Sylaska, Assistant Professor of Psychological Science, Carthage College

Host: Stephanie West Allen, JD, PPI Dean of Neuroscience, Artistry, and Contemplative Practices

Description: Awe is one of the topics we will explore July 18, at the pre-Rendezvous workshop “Take a Trip to You” with Stephanie West Allen. In this standalone webinar on June 7, we will take a quicker look at this emotion that can bring us great joy and increase self-awareness, cooperation, and inspiration.

Awe recently has enjoyed heightened attention by researchers. And throughout history, many people have commented on awe. Here are two examples of people who have considered the emotion thoughtfully.
First: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” Albert Einstein, Living Philosophies: A Series of Intimate Credos
Second: “[Dr. Michelle] Shiota is a world expert on awe. She says the emotion is difficult to define, “but I think that what we are dealing with is a change that happens in our mind — and in our bodies and in our feelings — when we encounter something so extraordinary, that we can’t explain it.”
“That encounter can be with the grand, such as a panoramic view of a red sun, dipping into the Pacific Ocean. It can be with something the miniscule, such as the black spots on a ladybug. (How did they get so perfectly round?) It can be a scent, a taste or sound. “It can be a very complex and powerful song that you’ve never heard before, or even a scene in a TV show,” Shiota says.
“[T]he opportunities for awe are there,” she says. “Look for what moves you, what pushes your sense of boundaries of what is out there in the world.”
Awe is mind expanding. Leading awe researchers describe the emotion as having two components: perceived vastness and then the need to accommodate by amending, revising or enlarging one’s perspective to include what has been perceived. In the webinar we will look closely at these two components and at ways to increase one’s experiences of awe. We also will consider the emotion’s possible drawbacks or negative effects.

Awe gives us an opportunity to observe and evaluate our boundaries, our cognitive limits, our perspectives. Human nature seeks safety, boundaries, the familiar, the predictable. But sometimes we also disregard or reject what is safe, bounded, or known when we explore, create, strive, transcend. Awe encourages and perhaps requires us to update and shift our boundaries. By being aware of these changes, we can make conscious choices and decisions. In the webinar, we will talk about making mindful decisions about boundaries.

For this discussion about awe, Stephanie West Allen, JD, PPI Dean of Neuroscience, Artistry, and Contemplative Practices, will be joined by Dr. Anthony Barnhart, chair of the Department of Psychology at Carthage College (and also a professional magician who was interviewed for PPI in 2020) and Dr. Kateryna Sylaska, also with the Department of Psychology at Carthage College.

Some reading about awe:

“The Science of Awe” 
“Ask Jonah Paquette about experiencing awe” 
“‘A Sad Kind of Happiness’: The Role Of Mixed Emotions In Our Lives” 
“Why Do We Feel Awe?” 

For examples of awe, see the articles referenced above; we also will discuss examples in the webinar.

Introduction to Our Guest Speakers

Professor Anthony Barnhart received his Ph.D. in cognitive science from Arizona State University, where he began his graduate career with the intention of being a language researcher. To this end, he has published research examining the processes underlying handwritten word perception, a domain that has been largely ignored by psychologists until now.

Prof. Barnhart is also a part-time professional magician with more than 30 years of performing experience. His research trajectory changed in 2010 with the publication of the book Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about our Everyday Deceptions, in which he was featured by the authors as a consultant and teacher on the science of stage magic. The scientific interest that the book garnered motivated Prof. Barnhart to shift his focus toward the interface of science and magic.

His research program in the science of magic explores the intuitions of magicians and attempts to marry this folk psychology with formal scientific models in the domains of attention and perception. This work has been featured in Science News For Kids as well as in national and international television appearances and documentaries, most recently appearing on the long-running CBC science program, The Nature of Things.

As a performer, he employs psychological principles to elevate his magic’s impact and increase the audience’s sense of wonder. His magic has won four national competitions and has been featured in publications such as National Geographic World magazine, M-U-M Magazine (the official journal of the Society of American Magicians), and The Linking Ring (the journal of the International Brotherhood of Magicians).

Personal Webpage: http://www.anthonybarnhart.com

Professor Kateryna Sylaska earned her B.S. in psychology from Northern Arizona University. She took a year off from studies working at a non-profit teen suicide crisis hotline in Phoenix, Arizona (Teen Lifeline) before returning to Northern Arizona University for an M.A. in psychology. She was drawn to research and teaching in psychology, but also interested in how psychological research works in the “real world” and how understanding these principles can improve interpersonal interactions outside of the experimental laboratory. This led her to the University of New Hampshire where she earned her Ph.D. focusing on social and personality psychology.

Prior to joining the Carthage faculty, she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon and an Assistant Professor at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois.

As a passionate applied psychologist, in both her research and classes, Prof. Sylaska focuses on the application of social and personality psychological concepts to understand and solve problems in everyday life. This has taken different forms over the years, but her recent focus has been on how students identify their college major, and how individuals provide, seek, and receive help from their peers (one recent research project explores help receipt among young adults with chronic illness).

Her non-academic time is spent devouring novels and memoirs and taking long walks along the coast with her very spoiled dog, Fitz.

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June 7

@ 12:00 pm

1:00 pm