Kirk SchneiderKirk J. Schneider, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and leading spokesperson for contemporary existential-humanistic psychology. Dr. Schneider is the president (2015-2016) of the Society for Humanistic Psychology of the American Psychological Association, recent past editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology (2005-2012), vice-president of the Existential-Humanistic Institute (EHI), and adjunct faculty at Saybrook University and Teachers College, Columbia University. A Fellow of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Schneider has authored or edited 11 books including The Paradoxical SelfHorror and the HolyThe Psychology of Existence (with Rollo May), The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology (with James Bugental and Fraser Pierson), Rediscovery of AweExistential-Integrative PsychotherapyExistential-Humanistic Therapy (with Orah Krug), Humanity’s Dark Side (with Art Bohart, Barbara Held, and Ed Mendelowitz), Awakening to AweThe Polarized Mind and The Essentials of Existential-Humanistic Therapy Supervision (with Orah Krug). The Wiley World Handbook of Existential Therapy and The Spirituality of Awe: Challenges to the Robotic Revolution are in preparation.

Dr. Schneider will be giving a keynote lecture as well as participating in the panel on Working with Meaning in Life Issues for the 9th Biennial International Meaning Conference, July 28-31, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.

Keynote Title

Can Awe Spark a Social Revolution?

Scheduled for Friday, July 29, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM


The concept—or better yet, sensibility—of “awe” is rapidly seeping into mainstream consciousness. The field of positive psychology has taken a lead in this development with the publication of Keltner & Haight’s (2003) study of primordial awe as a sense of vastness that cannot be assimilated but (intriguingly) can be accommodated. An example of this biologically-based purview is the way people adapt to things that are beyond their power (e.g., nature or great leaders). Initially, people tend to fear these things but later adjust to and often become fascinated by their power. It is precisely this fear and fascination that motivates people to live in orderly societies. Since the Keltner and Haight article, the sense of awe has been broadened to embrace many states of well being—from altruistic behaviors to stronger immune systems, to greater capacities for patience. The sensibility of awe has also been correlated with higher life-satisfaction than simple “happiness.” In this talk, I will raise the question as to whether awe is a much more radically important topic than has been conventionally conceived. In particular, I will propose that the sense of awe—or what I call the “humility and wonder and sense of adventure toward living” —may form the basis for a powerful cultural transformation. This transformation is an antidote, in my view, to our increasingly polarized world.

Learning Objectives

  1. To learn the conventional, biologically based view of awe as presented by Keltner and Haight.
  2. To learn the existential-humanistically based view of awe presented by Schneider.
  3. To learn the broader, socially transformative implications of awe as presented by Schneider.
  4. To describe the broader, socially transformative implications of awe to two major sectors of our society.

Panel Title

Working with Meaning in Life Issues

Scheduled for Friday, July 29, 4:15 PM – 6:15 PM