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      Empathic Concern Is Part of a More General Communal Emotion

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          Seeing someone in need may evoke a particular kind of closeness that has been conceptualized as sympathy or empathic concern (which is distinct from other empathy constructs). In other contexts, when people suddenly feel close to others, or observe others suddenly feeling closer to each other, this sudden closeness tends to evoke an emotion often labeled in vernacular English as being moved, touched, or heart-warming feelings. Recent theory and empirical work indicates that this is a distinct emotion; the construct is named kama muta. Is empathic concern for people in need simply an expression of the much broader tendency to respond with kama muta to all kinds of situations that afford closeness, such as reunions, kindness, and expressions of love? Across 16 studies sampling 2918 participants, we explored whether empathic concern is associated with kama muta. Meta-analyzing the association between ratings of state being moved and trait empathic concern revealed an effect size of, r (3631) = 0.35 [95% CI: 0.29, 0.41]. In addition, trait empathic concern was also associated with self-reports of the three sensations that have been shown to be reliably indicative of kama muta: weeping, chills, and bodily feelings of warmth. We conclude that empathic concern might actually be a part of the kama muta construct.

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              The principles of psychology


                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                10 May 2017
                : 8
                1Department of Psychology, University of Oslo Oslo, Norway
                2Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL) Lisboa, Portugal
                3Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles CA, USA
                Author notes

                Edited by: Michael Noll-Hussong, University of Ulm, Germany

                Reviewed by: Jonna Katariina Vuoskoski, University of Oxford, UK; Peter A. Bos, Utrecht University, Netherlands

                *Correspondence: Janis H. Zickfeld, j.h.zickfeld@

                This article was submitted to Emotion Science, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2017 Zickfeld, Schubert, Seibt and Fiske.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 65, Pages: 16, Words: 0
                Funded by: Universitetet i Oslo 10.13039/501100005366
                Original Research


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