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The emerging study of positive empathy

  • Author(s): Morelli, SA
  • Lieberman, MD
  • Zaki, J
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Lay intuitions suggest that the ability to share, celebrate, and enjoy others' positive emotions - a phenomenon we term positive empathy - bolsters individual well-being and relationship strength. However, it is unclear from the current literature whether (i) positive empathy is distinct from highly related constructs and (ii) whether positive empathy is associated with salutary social and personal outcomes. Here, we begin by examining basic evidence suggesting that positive empathy is related to, but independent from, constructs such as general positivity and empathy for others' distress. We then review evidence that positive empathy correlates with increased prosocial behavior, social closeness, and well-being. Lastly, we discuss open directions for the study of positive empathy, such as investigating the potential role of positive empathy (or its disruption) in psychiatric disorders.

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