Appreciative joy (or sympathetic joy) refers to feeling happiness for others and is one of the four prosocial attitudes (“four immeasurables”) cultivated by loving-kindness meditation in Buddhism. The current study included 1622 participants and developed a scale to measure appreciative joy for friends in daily life. Both an exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis resulted in an appreciative joy scale consisting of three components: sense of joy, positive interpersonal bias, and self-transcendence (study 1). The appreciative joy scale exhibited high correlations with measurements for interpersonal relationships and four immeasurables. The scale also shows incremental contributions to positive emotions, satisfaction with life, trait happiness, and peace of mind after controlling for interpersonal relationships or the four immeasurables (studies 2 and 3). The scale exhibited higher scores among Buddhists than among individuals with no religious belief, and its structure was maintained across English and Chinese samples (study 4); in addition, it demonstrated good test-retest reliability (study 5). Overall, the current study validated the scale as a useful tool for measuring appreciative joy, and certain findings also highlighted directions for future research on appreciative joy, including causal relationships with positive emotions, comparisons with compassion, and effects on envy.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
AMTBsg. (2010). Disclosure by Master Jingkong. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeN3vl6XAVQ.
Ballard, R. (1992). Short forms of the Marlowe-Crowne social desirability scale. Psychological Reports, 71(3f), 1155–1160.
Bentler, P. M. (1990). Comparative fit indexes in structural models. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 238–246.
Bodhi, B. (Ed.). (2012). A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: The Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Ācariya Anuruddha. Pariyatti. Available from http://store.pariyatti.org/Comprehensive-Manual-of-Abhidhamma-A--PDF-eBook_p_4362.html.
Chen, W., & Zhang, J. (2004). Factorial and construct validity of the Chinese positive and negative affect scale for student. Chinese Mental Health Journal, 18(11), 763–765. doi:10.3321/j.issn:1000-6729.2004.11.003.
Chen, Y. (2009). The research of relationships among self-esteem, the degree of depression, social support and suicidal ideation of college students. –Take a college students for example. Master dissertation of National Taiwan Normal University.
Cheng, S. T., & Chan, A. C. (2005). Measuring psychological well-being in the Chinese. Personality and Individual Differences, 38(6), 1307–1316.
Collard, J. J., Cummins, R. A., & Fuller-Tyskiewicz, M. (2015). Measurement of positive irrational beliefs (positive cognitive illusions). Journal of Happiness Studies, 1–20.
Cullen, M. (2011). Mindfulness-based interventions: an emerging phenomenon. Mindfulness, 2(3), 186–193.
Diener, E. D., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.
Dong, M., Wu, S., Zhu, Y., Guo, Y., & Jin, S. (2015). Religion and prosocial behavior. Advances in Psychological Science, 23(6), 1095–1108.
Galante, J., Galante, I., Bekkers, M. J., & Gallacher, J. (2014). Effect of kindness-based meditation on health and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(6), 1101–1114.
Galen, L. W. (2012). Does religious belief promote prosociality? A critical examination. Psychological Bulletin, 138(5), 876–906.
Guo, R., O-Yang, Y., Deng, Y., Feng, S., He, W., & Liu, H. (2013). Reliability and validity of the Chinese version of dispositional envy scale in Chinese college students. Chinese Journal of Health Psychology, 121(5), 701–703.
Harris, E. J. (2013). A Journey into Buddhism, available from http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/harris/bl134.html.
Hoerger, M. (2013). Z H : An updated version of Steiger’s Z and web-based calculator for testing the statistical significance of the difference between dependent correlations. Retrieved from http://www.psychmike.com/dependent_correlations.php.
Kang, Y., Gray, J. R., & Dovidio, J. F. (2015). The head and the heart: effects of understanding and experiencing lovingkindness on attitudes toward the self and others. Mindfulness, 6(5), 1063–1070.
Koopmann-Holm, B., Sze, J., Ochs, C., & Tsai, J. L. (2013). Buddhist-inspired meditation increases the value of calm. Emotion, 13(3), 497–505.
Kraus, S., & Sears, S. (2009). Measuring the immeasurables: development and initial validation of the Self-Other Four Immeasurables (SOFI) scale based on Buddhist teachings on loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Social Indicators Research, 92(1), 169–181.
Lee, Y. C., Lin, Y. C., Huang, C. L., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). The construct and measurement of peace of mind. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(2), 571–590.
Light, S. N., Moran, Z. D., Swander, L., Le, V., Cage, B., Burghy, C., & Davidson, R. J. (2015). Electromyographically assessed empathic concern and empathic happiness predict increased prosocial behavior in adults. Biological Psychology, 104, 116–129.
Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46(2), 137–155.
Morelli, S. A., Lieberman, M. D., Telzer, E. H., & Zaki, J. (under review). Positive empathy: Its structure and relation to prosociality, social connection, and well-being.
Morelli, S. A., Lieberman, M. D., & Zaki, J. (2015). The emerging study of positive empathy. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 9(2), 57–68.
Nanadipa. (2015). Experienced meditator shares experience of meditation. Retrieved from http://bbs.sutta.org/thread-8533-1-1.html.
Nanamoli, B. (2011). The path of purification (Visuddhimagga) by Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa. Available from http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/PathofPurification2011.pdf.
Olendzki, A. (2011). The construction of mindfulness. Contemporary Buddhism, 12(01), 55–70.
Peterson, C. (2006). A primer in positive psychology. Oxford University Press.
Pittinsky, T. L., & Montoya, R. M. (2009). Sympathy and symhedonia in intergroup relations: the relationship of empathic sorrow and empathic joy to prejudice and allophilia. Psicologia Sociale, 4(3), 347–364.
Royzman, E. B., & Rozin, P. (2006). Limits of symhedonia: the differential role of prior emotional attachment in sympathy and sympathetic joy. Emotion, 6(1), 82–93.
Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(6), 1069–1081.
Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., Compare, A., Zangeneh, M., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014). Buddhist-derived loving-kindness and compassion meditation for the treatment of psychopathology: a systematic review. Mindfulness, 6(5), 1161–1180.
Smith, R. H., Parrott, W. G., Diener, E. F., Hoyle, R. H., & Kim, S. H. (1999). Dispositional envy. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25(8), 1007–1020.
Sprecher, S., & Fehr, B. (2005). Compassionate love for close others and humanity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22(5), 629–651.
Steiger, J. H., & Lind, J. C. (1980). Statistically based tests for the number of common factors. Paper presented at the Spring Meeting of the Psychometric Society, Iowa City, IA.
Sujiva, V. (2007). Loving-kindness Meditation. Available from http://enlight.lib.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-MAG/mag140106.pdf.
Telle, N. T., & Pfister, H. R. (2016). Positive empathy and prosocial behavior: a neglected link. Emotion Review, 8(2), 154–163.
Thompson, E. R., & Phua, F. T. (2005). Reliability among senior managers of the Marlowe–Crowne short-form social desirability scale. Journal of Business and Psychology, 19(4), 541–554.
Tsai, J. L., Knutson, B., & Fung, H. H. (2006). Cultural variation in affect valuation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 288–307.
Wallmark, E., Safarzadeh, K., Daukantaitė, D., & Maddux, R. E. (2013). Promoting altruism through meditation: an 8-week randomized controlled pilot study. Mindfulness, 4(3), 223–234.
Wispé, L. (1986). The distinction between sympathy and empathy: to call forth a concept, a word is needed. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(2), 314–321.
Yue, T., & Huang, X. (2016). The cognitive neuroscience studies on positive empathy. Advances in Psychological Science, 24, 402–409.
Zeng, X., Chiu, C., Wang, R., Oei, T., & Leung, F. (2015a). The effect of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions: a meta-analytic review. Frontier in Psychology, 6, 1693. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01693.
Zeng, X., Li, M., Zhang, B., & Liu, X. (2015b). Revision of the Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale for measuring awareness and equanimity in Goenka’s Vipassana Meditation with Chinese Buddhists. Journal of Religion and Health, 54(2), 623–637.
Zeng, X., Liu, S., & Liu, X. (2013). The application and empirical studies on loving-kindness meditation from psychological perspective. Advances in Psychological Science, 21(8), 1466–1472.
Zimet, G. D., Dahlem, N. W., Zimet, S. G., & Farley, G. K. (1988). The multidimensional scale of perceived social support. Journal of Personality Assessment, 52(1), 30–41.
This study was conducted while XZ was studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and it received support from both Beijing Normal University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The orders of institutions are alphabetical.
This study is supported by the National Social Science Foundation of China 14BSH082.
We thank Nicholas Van Dam and two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions.
XZ provided the conceptualization and generated the items; XZ, RZ, and TO designed the study; XZ, RL, and XL collected and analyzed the data; XZ, RZ, TO, ZY, and FL collaborated in the writing of the paper. All authors discussed the results and reviewed and commented on the manuscript.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was provided for all participants included in the study.
Electronic Supplementary Material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
(DOCX 78 kb)
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Zeng, X., Liao, R., Zhang, R. et al. Development of the Appreciative Joy Scale. Mindfulness 8, 286–299 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0599-4
- Appreciative joy
- Sympathetic joy
- Four immeasurables
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Positive empathy