Preferred Name

Daria Borislavova White

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Graduate Psychology


Debbie C. Sturm

Lennis G. Echterling

Cara Meixner


The emotions of joy and awe have received some attention in the psychological literature with few studies comparing the two phenomena across cultures. A phenomenological study of joy and awe in four countries – Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, and the USA, examined both emotions. The inquiry was conducted through semi-structured interviews. The phenomenological methodology was supplemented with grounded theory procedures to ensure research rigor. Four categories were identified that contribute to the experience of joy and awe: unity of souls, nature, spirituality, and the original self. Freedom, humor, face-to-face communication, innocence, time, and space were facets of the joy and awe experience. Categories hindering joy and awe were: family troubles, illness, political systems, globalization and consumerism, and the electronic childhood. Childhood innocence and posttraumatic growth were personal variables enhancing joy and awe. Culturally awe was expressed: in linguistics, the supernatural, death, the original self, and education. Joy in culture was connected to the supernatural, freedom, and sorrow. This study represents the first phenomenological exploration of joy and awe to include human development, cultural values and comparison of childhood experience before and after the rise of the virtual world.



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