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PLoS One. 2015 Jun 4;10(6):e0128451. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128451. eCollection 2015.

Towards a psychological construct of being moved.

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Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt, Germany; Research Cluster "Languages of Emotion," Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Research Cluster "Languages of Emotion," Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Research Cluster "Languages of Emotion," Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany; Helmut Schmidt University / University of the Federal Armed Forces Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany.


The emotional state of being moved, though frequently referred to in both classical rhetoric and current language use, is far from established as a well-defined psychological construct. In a series of three studies, we investigated eliciting scenarios, emotional ingredients, appraisal patterns, feeling qualities, and the affective signature of being moved and related emotional states. The great majority of the eliciting scenarios can be assigned to significant relationship and critical life events (especially death, birth, marriage, separation, and reunion). Sadness and joy turned out to be the two preeminent emotions involved in episodes of being moved. Both the sad and the joyful variants of being moved showed a coactivation of positive and negative affect and can thus be ranked among the mixed emotions. Moreover, being moved, while featuring only low-to-mid arousal levels, was experienced as an emotional state of high intensity; this applied to responses to fictional artworks no less than to own-life and other real, but media-represented, events. The most distinctive findings regarding cognitive appraisal dimensions were very low ratings for causation of the event by oneself and for having the power to change its outcome, along with very high ratings for appraisals of compatibility with social norms and self-ideals. Putting together the characteristics identified and discussed throughout the three studies, the paper ends with a sketch of a psychological construct of being moved.

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