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Focusing on disenchantment, sociology undertheorizes wonder. Our analysis of 30 interviews is the first sociological study of Americans’ wonder experiences. Contrary to Weber’s theorization of disenchantment, this study shows people experience wonder that is transformative and try to cultivate states of mind open to wonder experiences. Our study shows wonder follows from particularity, difference, and encounters with the mysterious; wonder connects people to expansive concerns; people experience acute self-awareness during wonder encounters; and people seek wonder experiences. Wonder communities influence wonder experiences, but stages of wonder experiences are similar outside communities.



Sociological Inquiry (August 2021). doi: 10.1111/soin.12457

Author contributions: The first author designed the interviews, obtained IRB approval, trained the students in interviewing and protection of human subjects, analyzed the data, and summarized findings to address issues in sociology and the study of emotions. The co-authors identified passages in the transcripts worth analyzing, the themes these passages suggested, and the relative prevalence of particular experiences. The order of authors reflects a rough estimate of the relative contributions of each author’s analysis and writing in the paper. The first author relied especially on Safford’s analysis of how state of mind affects wonder, Odette’s analysis of awareness of self during experiences of wonder, and Mercado’s analysis of the stages of wondrous experience when one is not part of a wonder community. The first author drew on the selection of data and analysis by Wright who showed how wonder connects to significance, by Garmendiz and Ureña Reyes who showed separately how wonder transforms, and by Price, who showed how wonder follows from difference. Such a long list of co-authors is non-normative (in sociology), but the first interview study of wonder makes important contributions and should be published with a recognition of each’s contribution to a collaborative effort. Each co-author has access to all of the interview transcripts to make their own independent contributions.