Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 158–167 | Cite as

Is tenderness a basic emotion?

  • Juan Pablo KalawskiEmail author
Original Paper


The article presents the case to consider tenderness a basic emotion, using the criteria proposed by Ekman (in Handbook of cognition and emotion, Wiley, England, 1999). The first part of the article reviews the relationship between tenderness and the related concepts of love and empathy. The next section reviews evidence concerning whether tenderness meets some of Ekman’s criteria. The last section reports an experiment testing whether tenderness meets Ekman’s criterion of distinct subjective experience. Participants watched scenes designed to induce different emotions. Results showed that a scene could induce high levels of tenderness and low levels of joy if that scene also induced high levels of sadness. These results suggest that the subjective experience of tenderness is distinct from that of joy.


Tenderness Basic emotions Love Empathy Caregiving Positive emotions Joy Sympathy Attachment theory 



The experiment reported in the present article was part of the author’s doctoral dissertation at the University of North Texas. I thank all the members of the dissertation committee for their input. I also thank an anonymous reviewer of a previous version of this article for telling me about Lishner’s research.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Counseling CenterUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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