We help close others in many ways, from listening to each other’s problems, to making each other feel understood, to providing practical support.  Although these supportive actions often benefit the recipient, how does helping affect the person providing support (i.e., provider)?  A new paper by Sylvia Morelli, Ihno Lee, Molly Arrn, and Jamil Zaki reveals that empathizing with those we help directly relates to feeling happier, less lonely,...

Huge congrats to Jamil Zaki for receiving the APS Janet Taylor Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions! The APS recognized six psychological scientists “pushing the limits of their field.” You can (and should!) read profiles of all six recipients here...

Congrats to graduate student Craig Williams for winning the SPSP Emotion Preconference Poster Award and for his recognition as an SPSP Student Poster Award Finalist. Craig’s poster, “Interpersonal emotion regulation style: Predictions for affiliation, regulatory success, and well-being” details the development of his Interpersonal Regulation Questionnaire. Well done!

Why do we like what we like?  It seems that other people influence our values and preferences, even when it comes to food.  A new study by Erik Nook and Jamil Zaki found that Stanford undergraduates shifted their preferences for foods towards those of their peers.  However, group norms didn't just shift how much participants said they liked foods, norms also shifted how their brains responded to foods.  The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (a...

Individuals experience reward not only when directly receiving positive outcomes (e.g., food or money), but also when observing others receive positive outcomes (i.e., vicarious reward). But do personally rewarding experiences and vicariously rewarding experiences draw on the same or different neural machinery? A new meta-analysis by Sylvia Morelli, Matthew Sacchet, and Jamil Zaki sheds light on the common and unique components of personal...

We think about others and reason about other minds all the time: but do we do this automatically? There is an on-going debate in the literature about the automaticity of theory of mind (ToM). Is ToM effortful or automatic? A new Psychological Science paper, coauthored by PhD student Desmond Ong, in collaboration with Stanford Psychology Professor Michael Frank and others, sheds more light on this debate. The paper offers a replication of a...

When we're trying to understand how other people are feeling, do we automatically recognize expressions as "afraid" or "angry," or must we use conceptual processes to arrive at these conclusions?  A new publication by Erik Nook, Kristen Lindquist and Jamil Zaki reports data supporting the latter notion: people use emotion concepts to identify how other people are feeling.  Identifying emotions in others speeds responses to congruent emotion...

When we hear the term "empathy," we often think of empathizing with others' pain and suffering.  However, empathy can also involve sharing, celebrating, and enjoying others’ positive emotions (or "positive empathy").  A new paper by Sylvia Morelli, Matthew Lieberman, and Jamil Zaki introduces this new construct and reviews evidence that positive empathy relates to increased prosocial behavior, social closeness...

Are happy people more empathetic? Or are they unable to emotionally connect with those around them? A new study — done by Prof. Jamil Zaki and PhD student Desmond Ong in collaboration with Hillary Devlin and June Gruber of the Positive Emotion and Psychopathology Lab — investigates how positive emotion is associated with our ability to empathize with others. The study finds that people high in trait positive emotions are “not as good as they...

We often think of empathy as an automatic process. However, empathy is often context-dependent. Our willingness to empathize with others changes with different situations and with different people. A new paper by Jamil Zaki resolves this tension by underscoring the role of motivation in empathy. Motives drive our willingness to empathize. In his paper, Zaki highlights specific motives that drive people to avoid and...