Self-transcendent positive emotions increase spirituality through basic world assumptions

Cogn Emot. 2013;27(8):1378-94. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2013.787395. Epub 2013 May 13.


Spirituality has mostly been studied in psychology as implied in the process of overcoming adversity, being triggered by negative experiences, and providing positive outcomes. By reversing this pathway, we investigated whether spirituality may also be triggered by self-transcendent positive emotions, which are elicited by stimuli appraised as demonstrating higher good and beauty. In two studies, elevation and/or admiration were induced using different methods. These emotions were compared to two control groups, a neutral state and a positive emotion (mirth). Self-transcendent positive emotions increased participants' spirituality (Studies 1 and 2), especially for the non-religious participants (Study 1). Two basic world assumptions, i.e., belief in life as meaningful (Study 1) and in the benevolence of others and the world (Study 2) mediated the effect of these emotions on spirituality. Spirituality should be understood not only as a coping strategy, but also as an upward spiralling pathway to and from self-transcendent positive emotions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Culture*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Religion*
  • Spirituality*