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Key words for happines

"Kindness" is a general, everyday term describing behaviors that


involve being friendly, generous, or considerate. "Pro-social" is the
term favored by scientists to refer to kind, helpful behaviors or states,
but it is also quite broad.
Below are definitions of more specific terms that relate to these general
qualities. Understanding them, and the differences between them, is
important to understanding the science that we cover in Week 3.
Compassion: Literally means to suffer together. Among emotion
researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you
witness anothers suffering and feel motivated to help relieve that
suffering.
Compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism, though the
concepts are related. While empathy refers more generally to our ability
to sense the emotions--and/or take the perspective-- of another person,
compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to
help. While altruism is often prompted by compassion, one can feel
compassion without acting on it, and altruism isnt always motivated by
compassion.
Altruism: Altruism is when we act to promote someone elses welfare,
even at a risk or cost to ourselves. Many debate whether and why true
(or "pure") altruism actually exists. Evolutionary scientists speculate
that altruism has deep roots in human nature because helping and
cooperation promote the survival of our species. Indeed, Darwin himself
argued that altruism, which he called sympathy or benevolence, is
an essential part of the social instincts. Some evolutionary biologists
argue that organisms may sometimes put themselves at risk in order to
help another because they expect that the other organism will return
the favor down the line, a concept known as "reciprocal altruism."
Empathy: As Emiliana explained last week, the term empathy is used
to describe a wide range of experiences. Emotion researchers generally

define empathy as the ability to sense other peoples emotions


("affective empathy"), coupled with the ability to imagine what someone
else might be thinking or feeling ("cognitive empathy").
Studies suggests that empathy is often a vital first step toward altruistic
behavior, but it does not always lead to altruism, and altruistic acts can
be motivated by factors other than empathy. More specifically, research
by Daniel Batson and others suggests that empathy is much more likely
to lead to altruism when it elicits the specific feeling of "empathic
concern," which is when we observe someone in need and truly "feel
for" that person--a state similiar to compassion--rather than wanting to
escape the situation or feeling overwhelmed by distress.
Pity: Feeling sorry for the suffering or misfortune of someone else. Pity
is similar to compassion, but it suggests a power imbalance, whereby
the observer occupies a place of superiority and looks down upon the
person who is suffering.