Viewing the Earth from space has often prompted astronauts to report overwhelming
emotion and feelings of identification with humankind and the planet as a whole. In this
article, we explore this experience, known as the “overview effect.” We examine
astronaut accounts of the overview effect and suggest existing psychological constructs,
such as awe and self-transcendent experience, that might contribute to a psychological
understanding of this experience. We argue that the overview effect suggests directions
for future research on altered states of consciousness in new contexts, with potential
implications for better understanding well-being in isolated, confined, extreme (ICE)
environments such as space flight.
Published in the March 2016 issue of Psychology of Consciousness by the American Psychological Association.