Kama muta: Conceptualizing and measuring the experience often labelled being moved across 19 nations and 15 languages

Janis H. Zickfeld*, Thomas W. Schubert, Beate Seibt, Johanna K. Blomster, Patrícia Arriaga, Nekane Basabe, Agata Blaut, Amparo Caballero, Pilar Carrera, Ilker Dalgar, Yi Ding, Kitty Dumont, Valerie Gaulhofer, Asmir Gračanin, Réka Gyenis, Chuan-peng Hu, Igor Kardum, Ljiljana B. Lazarević, Leemamol Mathew, Sari MentserRavit Nussinson, Mayuko Onuki, Darío Páez, Anna Pásztor, Kaiping Peng, Boban Petrović, José J. Pizarro, Victoria Schönefeld, Magdalena Śmieja, Akihiko Tokaji, A.J.J.M. Vingerhoets, Anja Vorster, Jonna Vuoskoski, Lei Zhu, Alan Page Fiske

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


English-speakers sometimes say that they feel “moved to tears,” “emotionally touched,” “stirred,” or that something “warmed their heart;” other languages use similar passive contact metaphors to refer to an affective state. The authors propose and measure the concept of kama muta to understand experiences often given these and other labels. Do the same experiences evoke the same kama muta emotion across nations and languages? They conducted studies in 19 different countries, 5 continents, 15 languages, with a total of 3,542 participants. They tested the construct while validating a comprehensive scale to measure the appraisals, valence, bodily sensations, motivation, and lexical labels posited to characterize kama muta. The results are congruent with theory and previous findings showing that kama muta is a distinct positive social relational emotion that is evoked by experiencing or observing a sudden intensification of communal sharing. It is commonly accompanied by a warm feeling in the chest, moist eyes or tears, chills or piloerection, feeling choked up or having a lump in the throat, buoyancy, and exhilaration. It motivates affective devotion and moral commitment to communal sharing. Although the authors observed some variations across cultures, these 5 facets of kama muta are highly correlated in every sample, supporting the validity of the construct and the measure
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)402-424
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • being moved
  • communal sharing
  • cross-cultural
  • empathy
  • kama muta


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