Gratitude, spirituality, and an appreciation of moral beauty and human excellence are character strengths, all tied to the core human virtue known as transcendence. We also encounter transcendence when we experience the emotions of awe, elevation, and admiration. Experiencing these so-called self-transcendent emotions draws us out of our typical self-centered frame of mind, inspiring us to better ourselves and to strengthen ties with those around us. However, research on how people actually experience these important emotions in their daily lives is extremely limited. The proposed three-year research program will address this topic by examining how self-transcendent emotions are elicited by and experienced with inspirational media content, such as touching films, viral videos, and "good news." We will also explore how these experiences might promote character building, an "others-praising" perspective, prosocial behavior, and increased exposure to and sharing of the content. To understand these complex relationships, we will explore various research questions across three primary domains (1) content: what forms of media inspire?, (2) audience: who seeks out and shares inspirational media? what motivates them to do so?, and (3) effects: what are the short- and long-term benefits of consuming inspirational media? The proposed project will utilize multiple research methods including systematic content analyses, cross-sectional and panel surveys, and laboratory experiments. The findings will serve as the basis for at least 10 high-impact journal articles, at least 10 inter/national conference presentations, a two-day research symposium in advance of an edited book on inspirational media, and popular press dissemination of the work. The project will uncover the unexplored potential for media to inspire and develop transcendence by illuminating key factors in the relationships between media, culture, positive emotions, behavior, well-being, and character development.
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