UCL School of Management is delighted to welcome, Erik Dane, Rice University, to host a research seminar discussing ‘Suddenly, I Realized…Exploring the Nature and Psychological Foundations of Epiphanies’.
Epiphanies – sudden, personally transformational realizations – are central to a number of literary and cinematic plotlines. To what degree though do epiphanies occur in real life? For that matter, what types of people tend to experience epiphanies – and what types of epiphanies are people apt to experience? Through a series of studies, I develop theory on the nature and psychological foundations of epiphanies associated with people’s work, careers, and lives more generally. In doing so, I present qualitative and quantitative evidence that epiphanies occur when individuals are oriented in specific ways toward the prospect of substantial personal change. I also identify a key psychological mechanism underlying the generation of epiphanies (problem-solving daydreaming) and spotlight a particular type of epiphany – those related to self-transcendence – that expands people’s spheres of concern. Together, these studies provide a theoretical framework for understanding epiphanies and open new windows into the nature of problem solving, insight, and personal transformation.