Positive Empathy: meet Microsociology
Morelli, Sylvia A., Matthew D. Lieberman, and Jamil Zaki. 2015.
“The Emerging Study of Positive Empathy.” Social and Personality Psychology Compass 9(2):57-68.
It appears that ‘positive empathy’ is an idea whose time has come. Expect more books and articles like this one popping up in the near future.
Not that you should read them, given the ever creeping, expanding, and detrimental influence of positive psychology upon the entire field of neuropsychology, apparent in this article when ‘prosociality’ is reduced to ‘helping’ behaviors, or when discussions of (the lack of) positive empathy in psychopathology is waylaid until the conclusion and then treated only superficially. However, the basic suppositions of this article are sound:
(1) Empathy can be broken down into positive and negative types, such that positive empathy refers to understanding and sharing in the positive affective states of others (for instance, when people report or ‘capitalize’ upon good news) as opposed negative empathy which has been more prototypical of our usage of the term.
Positive empathy, as defined here, is like the exact opposite of schadenfreude: positive empathy is genuine and altruistic enthusiasm shared with others who are excited for whatever reason.