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Awe May Make Us Kinder to Each Other

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Sedona, Arizona

When was the last time you were awestruck? Perhaps when traveling through the mountains, taking in the view of a city skyline, or contemplating the enormity of space. Maybe you got a ripple of goosebumps, felt tiny in the vastness of things, or couldn't help but say, “Wow.”

A new study suggests we feel awe for a reason: because it encourages us to be good to one another. That's the big idea behind a study recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which found that awe helps bind us to others, motivating us to act in collaborative ways that enable strong groups and cohesive communities, according to the researchers.

"Awe is the perception of something so physically or conceptually vast that it transcends your view of the world and you need to find ways to accommodate it," study author Paul Piff of UC Irvine told New Scientist. “It's a basic sense that what you have experienced doesn't fit in with your expectations of the world, so you have to recalibrate."

To explore the impact of awe on human interaction, Piff and his team conducted five studies. In one they asked a group of volunteers to spend some time marveling at a grove of Tasmanian blue gum eucalyptus trees in California. Meanwhile, a separate group stared at the boring facade of a building. When a researcher “accidentally” dropped a handful of pens on the ground, the tree gawkers were quick to help, picking up more pens than the building contemplators.  

In another, participants received 10 raffle tickets to be entered into a cash drawing with their name on them. They could keep all the tickets for themselves, or share some with other empty-handed test subjects. People who reported being regularly exposed to awe-inspiring moments gave 40 percent more tickets away to strangers.

Why do beautiful, inspiring things make us more compassionate? “Awe imbues people with a different sense of themselves—one that is smaller, more humble and part of something larger,” Piff says.

Awe is often triggered by the sight of things much larger than we are, according to a 2003 study by Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley and Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia. They cite Michelangelo’s statue of David, which towers over spectators, as a good example.

Beautiful objects in nature get the job done, too. Mountains, trees, waterfalls, the vast sprawl of the Grand Canyon—all have the incredible ability to make us feel small, humble, and inspired.

However, that poses a problem in modern life, when we spend less time outside in nature than we do inside peering at our devices. One study from 2008 found that Americans were spending 25 percent less time outside compared to 1987. And we're not exposing ourselves to as much theater and art as we used to.

So if you want more wonder (and perhaps to be kinder), what sorts of things should you be doing? Hiking to a mountain summit can help, but even small amounts of time spent marveling in awe—say, by taking a walk in the woods or stopping by a gallery on your lunch hour—can lower our narcissism and boost our ability to be more considerate of those around us, the researchers say.

And if you can’t get outside or to a museum, watch a video of nature being amazing—because that works too. Piff says, "We suggest that people … actively seek out what gives them goosebumps."

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The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas
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When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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Pop Culture
The House From The Money Pit Is For Sale

Looking for star-studded new digs? For a cool $5.9 million, Top10RealEstateDeals.com reports, you can own the Long Island country home featured in the 1986 comedy The Money Pit—no renovations required.

For the uninitiated, the film features Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as hapless first-time homeowners who purchase a rundown mansion for cheap. The savings they score end up being paltry compared to the debt they incur while trying to fix up the house.

The Money Pit featured exterior shots of "Northway," an eight-bedroom estate located in the village of Lattingtown in Nassau County, New York. Luckily for potential buyers, its insides are far nicer than the fictional ones portrayed in the movie, thanks in part to extensive renovations performed by the property’s current owners.

Amenities include a giant master suite with a French-style dressing room, eight fireplaces, a "wine wall," and a heated outdoor saltwater pool. Check out some photos below, or view the entire listing here.

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

The real-life Long Island home featured in 1986's “The Money Pit”
TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

[h/t Top10RealEstateDeals.com]

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