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The overview effect and counselling psychology: astronaut experiences of earth gazing

Nezami, A. (2017). The overview effect and counselling psychology: astronaut experiences of earth gazing. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


A significant number of space travellers have reported seeing Earth from orbit or the moon as an awe-inducing experience that is deeply impactful. To date existent research has provided convincing evidence that nature is therapeutic but there is limited research exploring the impact of extraordinary awe inducing natural environments. In order to bridge this gap, this study used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to explore how seven retired National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronauts experienced Earth gazing from orbit and viewing nature from this perspective. Three main themes emerged: 1) Deeply Impactful Perceptions of Earth, 2) Profound and Unexpected Emotional Impact and, 3) A Space Odyssey. The first theme describes the initial aesthetic observations and the dynamic interaction with the natural world. The second theme describes the emotive impact and noetic contemplation that took place. The final theme represents the embodiment of the experience post-flight. It seems that Earth gazing can strengthen our connection to nature and life, elicit awe, gratitude, humility, and reverence, and enable a sense of social cohesion. These features suggest it can instigate behavioural change and foster wellbeing, and therefore make it relevant to Counselling Psychology. Finally, this study recommends that this experience can be adapted and simulated via positive technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), as a green wellbeing intervention at an individual, local, and global level.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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