Toward a Psychology of Wonder

Towards a Psychology of Marvel


I sat down with my household a few months in the past and at last did a type of “household goal statements” I’ve heard about during which every member of the family comes up with particular person values and you then all see when you can merge them into one thing succinct. One phrase my 32-year-old daughter, Maia, had on her record captivated us all: Marvel.

It is such an awesome phrase, don’t you suppose? Maia led us into a few of its meanings: Awe, inquiry, curiosity, questioning issues, wandering, pleasure.

We adopted marvel as our central motto. It doesn’t harm that it conjures a Nineteen Seventies Lynda Carter vibe. I all the time did dream of flying a glass airplane.

It feels good to be a marvel household. We don’t have to get too snug. We like having one thing new to marvel at. And we like that guide by Langston Hughes: I Marvel as I Wander.

He writes, “If you wish to see the world, or eat steaks in effective eating places with white tablecloths, write trustworthy books, or get in to see your sweetheart, you do such issues by taking an opportunity. In fact, a increase might fall and break your neck at any second, your books could also be barred from libraries, or the camel sausage might result in a prescription of arsenic. It is an opportunity you are taking.”

It requires that likelihood. It requires a danger.

In his latest guide Marvel: Childhood and a Lifelong Love of Science, Frank Keil notices that just about all little youngsters are fascinated by science, however by maturity most sort of drop it. The place does our inquisitiveness go? Why can we cease asking why?

Generally once I’m attempting to grasp one thing, I like to think about its reverse. I say, “the alternative of marvel is nervousness.” My daughter says, “the alternative of marvel is lifelessness.”

Curiosity might be arduous to gauge in folks. Solely scientists with a aptitude for philosophy actually get into it. An interdisciplinary group of researchers from the College of Pennsylvania, American College, and the Santa Fe Institute did a research during which they requested 149 folks to browse Wikipedia for quarter-hour day-after-day for 21 days. In monitoring their looking, they famous that every participant confirmed a singular “kinesthetic signature” in the way in which they looked for info. Amid all the range, two fundamental types emerged: The “hunter” seeks carefully associated info, taking deep dives into sure matters. The “busybody,” however, jumps round, gathering info and transferring on, one free connection at a time. Generally, folks browsed as a result of they have been attempting to find out about one thing. Researchers known as that motivation “deprivation sensitivity,” which I believe is only a fancy means of claiming they felt silly. The extra meandering searches tended to be extra motivated by “sensation looking for”—they favored the novelty of discovery.

The identical researchers hit up one other group of topics to maintain diaries of once they felt curious. When contributors may preserve their degree of curiosity fairly constant by way of the day, their total sense of well-being bloomed.

However, how carefully does the science of curiosity seize the idea of marvel?

I believe there’s one thing within the idea of marvel that invokes the miraculous, the definitionally para-scientific.

In a 1969 paper, The Philosophy of Marvel, Howard L. Parsons writes, “Marvel is distinguished from the just about purely emotional, unfavourable expertise, like panic or terror or awe. Marvel retains a component of detachment or ideation, a minimal curiosity, a management of emotion that offers psychic distance to the occasion and permits at the least in some small diploma the play of creativeness.”

It appears clear that marvel isn’t the sort of curiosity motivated by feeling silly. It lives out in a discipline past that self-consciousness or disgrace. Marvel lacks for panic or terror, even when the topic we’re dealing with is superior.

Ariel Gore

Supply: Ariel Gore

The youngsters and I agree to fulfill for an 11 am “marvel stroll,” then determine to name it a “marvel wander” a la Langston Hughes. The rules:

  1. Finest to not be in a rush.
  2. For those who discover your self speaking or desirous about the previous or the long run, gently deliver your consideration again to the present sensory particulars: What you may see, hear, scent, style, or contact.
  3. For those who deliver a telephone, solely use it as a digital camera.
  4. Maia reminds us that we might be in a brand new place or stroll the route we stroll day-after-day—so long as our consideration is on what we discover, we’ll all the time be capable to marvel at one thing new.

We wander throughout Manhattan Avenue into Morningside Park, and say good morning to the turtles.

Maia Swift

Supply: Maia Swift

There’s one thing compelling concerning the previous and the brand new.

One thing a few church underneath building.

Lit by rainbow gentle.

Keith Haring on the altar.

I’m wondering why each my youngsters are taller than I’m.

We stroll by way of the backyard with none specific route, cease at this tribute to desires.

It’s not till Maia begins studying that we understand it’s Hughes:

“Maintain quick to desires
For if desires die
Life is a broken-winged chook
That can’t fly.

Maintain quick to desires
For when desires go
Life is a barren discipline
Frozen with snow.”

Maia Swift

Supply: Maia Swift

“Langston is strolling with us,” Maia says.


I’m wondering what’s in right here . . .

[Here’s an expanded photo journal}


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