KAMA MUTA, Being Moved
Investigating "Kama Muta," an emotion of being moved by love; the social effects of crying, a common reaction to Kama Muta, and how perceptions of tears influence social support and their perceptions in moral situations.
YEARS: Since 2013
My work in the field of empathy and related emotions involves collaboration with colleagues from the Kama Muta lab. This team, based at the University of Oslo in Norway focuses on the study of Kama Muta.
The Kama Muta term, originating from Sanskrit and translating to "being moved by love" is the scientific term given to an emotion that has been often labeled as being moved or touched. Kama Muta is characterized by a sudden intensification of unity, love, belonging, or connection with a person, family, group, nation, nature, the universe, a divine entity. Characterize Kama Muta across various cultures, and examine its physiological response patterns. These studies aimed to identify the unique aspects of this emotional experience and differentiate it from commonly associated emotions such as sadness and awe, by also understanding how it relates to empathy. Additionally, our collaboration expanded to investigate the social effects of tears, which may occur in several situations, including when we feel kama muta or sad, particularly focusing on how they affect an observer's social support on a global scale. Concurrently, at my lab, we concentrated on studying adults' perceptions and reactions to children’s crying, with a specific emphasis on situations involving moral transgressions, to provide additional insights into the emotional and social dynamics of crying in both adults and children.
The following app was developed to report the results of a meta-analysis of various studies conducted in several countries and assessing different dimensions of Kama Muta, including labels such as "being moved" and "being touched" conducted in the context of Kama Muta being induced through stories and short movies and its association with different dimensions of the trait empathy.
This analysis was publish in the journal Emotion ("Kama Muta: Conceptualizing and measuring the experience of being moved across 19 nations and 15 languages").
The app was developed by the lead author of the study - Janis Zickfeld - and can also be viewed at the following webpage in which it was build: https://janisz.shinyapps.io/kaviar_project.
This video by VOX presents the topic of crying and its interplay with being moved, and includes researchers from the Kama Muta lab
The following app was developed by Thomas Schubert and the team at the Kama Muta Lab to illustrate the results of continuous assessment of Kama Muta in response to a short movie. This movie is also the illustrative example provided in the video developed by Vox mentioned above.
This App can also be view in the original website through this link:
While I did not participate in the study in which continuous self-report of emotions was evaluated, it was based on these results that we conducted a study on psychophysiological characterization of Kama Muta induced by videos (publish in Psychophysiology: Tears of joy, aesthetic chills, and heartwarming feelings: Physiological correlates of Kama Muta). In this particular study, physiological recordings included Heart Rate (HR), Heart rate variability (HRV: RMSSD & HF), Respiration (respiration rate & respiratory depth), Skin conductance (skin conductance level, SCL & non-specific skin conductance responses, nSCR) and Skin temperature, Facial Electromyography (zygomaticus major & corrugator supercilii), as well as Piloerection (goosebump activity), and Lachrymation using cameras.
This study compared physiological responses to videos that were previously considered to elicit Kama Muta, as well as Sadness and Awe. Moreover, within the videos inducing Kama Muta, we also analyzed the physiological responses comparing segments with low and high Kama Muta (also previously measured, as illustrated in the app below and the video above).
Overall, individuals reporting stronger "kama muta" also showed higher skin conductance, skin temperature, more activity in the zygomaticus muscles, more occurrence of goosebumps, and lower heart rate, respiration rates, and tonic skin conductance. The physiological patterns associated with kama muta were distinct from the responses to sadness and awe movies. Nonetheless, no conclusive evidence was found in relation to lachrymation or heart rate variability.
Additionally, our collaboration expanded to investigate the social effects of tears, which may occur in several situations, including when we feel kama muta or sad, particularly focusing on how they affect an observer's social support on a global scale.
Concurrently, at my lab, we concentrated on studying adults' perceptions and reactions to children’s crying, with a specific emphasis on situations involving moral transgressions, to provide additional insights into the emotional and social dynamics of crying in both adults and children.
Tears of joy, aesthetic chills, and heartwarming feelings: Physiological correlates of Kama Muta. Psychophysiology, 57 (12). LINK
Kama Muta: Similar emotional responses to touching videos across the US, Norway, China, Israel, and Portugal. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 49(3) 418–435. LINK
Adults’ responses to children’s crying after a moral transgression. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 22, e15, 1–10. LINK
Tears Evoke the Intention to Offer Social Support: A Systematic Investigation of the Interpersonal Effects of Emotional Crying Across 41 Countries. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. LINK
2020. The interpersonal effects of emotional tears on person perception and intention to provide support Student: Diogo Barros Martins. Supervisor: Patrícia Arriaga. Masters in Social and Organizational Psychology, ISCTE, Portugal.
2018. A experiência emocional kama muta: O despertar de sinais fisiológicos e relatos subjetivos. [The kama muta emotional experience: The awakening of physiological signs and subjective reports]. Student: Sara Vilar Santos. Supervisor: Patrícia Arriaga. Masters in Social and Organizational Psychology, ISCTE, Portugal
2016. A lágrima emocional num contexto de transgressão moral: Qual o seu impacto no perdão e comportamentos disciplinares perante a criança transgressora? [Emotional tears in a context of moral transgression: What is its impact on forgiveness and disciplinary behaviors towards the transgressing child?] Student: Selma Dinamene Pinheiro de Jesus Tavares; Supervisor: Patrícia Arriaga. Masters in Social and Organizational Psychology, ISCTE, Portugal
2016. A lágrima na face de uma criança: Reconhecimento emocional e suporte afectivo em adultos [The tear on a child's face: Emotional recognition and affective support in adults]. Student: Patrícia Maria Monteiro Neves. Master's in Psychology of Emotions, ISCTE, Portugal. Supervisor: Patrícia Arriaga.
2016. Being moved: how do attachment styles and emotion regulation affect the experience of being moved? Student: Rita Teresa Ramos Miguel. Masters in Social and Organizational Psychology, ISCTE, Portugal. Supervisors: Beat Seibt & Patrícia Arriaga
2013. O Arrepio Emocional: Caracterização, Efeito de Sensibilização e Avaliação Subjetiva e Fisiológica. ["Emotional Goosebumps: Characterization, Sensitization Effect, and Subjective and Physiological Evaluation]. Student: Luísa Maria Almeida Lavrador, Master in Psychology of Emotions, ISCTE, Portugal. Supervisors: Francisco Esteves & Patrícia Arriaga.