Take a moment and consider your favorite painting, that novel with a spine so worn because you return to again and again, a song that, each time you hear it, gives you chills, or the film that instills you with insight and awe.  Think about a time spent in meditation or prayer in a sacred place, in the audience of powerful play, or in the presence of a meaningful historic landmark.  What is it that draws you to those experiences?  Why do you seek the arts and humanities as part of your life?  How does engaging in the arts and humanities affect you?

Now, consider the opposite: what would your life look like without the arts and humanities? No art. No literature. No history.  No religion. No philosophy. No music. No film. No theater.  What would that mean for your lived experience?  How would that affect your state of mind?

We can all agree that a world without the arts and humanities is a bleak scenario. And while, anecdotally, we know that the arts and humanities can deeply move us and feel essential to our well-being, we know very little about the science behind the experience.


The Humanities and Human Flourishing Project seeks to scientifically explain the various ways the arts and humanities may be related to well-being.

  • In what ways do the arts and humanities support flourishing?
  • Do they contribute to well-being in any unique ways in which other endeavors do not?
  • Do some forms of engagement in the arts and humanities support human flourishing more effectively than others?
  • Are there ways in which the arts and humanities could be more effective in supporting well-being?
  • Are there ways in which they obstruct human flourishing?

We are developing and refining a conceptual model and will use these findings to create a toolkit, free for public use. In future years we will be evolving and refining our measures, and applying our findings in major cultural and educational institutions, using positive interventions.


We are a team of qualitative and quantitative researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Purdue University. We are also working with leading scholars and experts across the humanities and social sciences. We will partner with key educational and cultural organizations to implement our findings.