Departmental Colloquium: Alan Fiske, UCLA: Kama Muta
The Tears-of-Joy, Goosebumps, Heart-Warming Emotion of Holding Your Newborn Baby, Feeling Divine Love, Patriotic Devotion, Social Support, and Pixar Movies
Abrupt changes in social motives are experienced as emotions. In particular, sudden intensification of a communal sharing (CS) relationship is felt as an emotion we call “kama muta” (Sanskrit ‘moved by love’). Vernacular approximations include being moved, touched, heart-warming, rapture, megérintett, and megérint – although none of these exactly correspond to the psychological phenomenon. People may experience kama muta (KM) when their own CS relationships suddenly intensify, or when they observe others’ CS relationships suddenly intensify. For example, people often feel KM when seeing the first ultrasound of their baby, when the baby is born, in reunions, when receiving a great kindness, at patriotic and memorial ceremonies, when feeling a deity’s love, watching Pixar movies, or when seeing someone else experience KM. When KM is intense, people typically cry, get goosebumps, have a warm or other feeling in the center of the chest, or get choked up. They may take a deep breath or say awww. KM is a very positive experience that people seek out and eagerly share with other CS partners. Consequently, a great many institutions, practices, narratives, and artifacts have culturally evolved to evoke KM; they are prominent in a great many diverse cultures across history. KM is easy to evoke in the lab. One set of participants’ averaged moment-to-moment judgments of the closeness of characters in a video predict with astounding precision four other sets of participants’ averaged moment-to-moment self-reports of, respectively, being moved or touched, tears, warm feelings in the chest, and goosebumps.