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date: 05 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In this chapter, we first review the existing literature on cross-cultural studies on compassion. While cultural similarities exist, we demonstrate cultural differences in the conception, experience, and expression of compassion. Then we present our own work on the cultural shaping of compassion by introducing Affect Valuation Theory (e.g., Tsai, Knutson, & Fung, 2006), our theoretical framework. We show how the desire to avoid feeling negative partly explains cultural differences in conceptualizations and expressions of compassion. Specifically, the more people want to avoid feeling negative, the more they focus on the positive (e.g., comforting memories) than the negative (e.g., the pain of someone’s death) when responding to others’ suffering, and the more they regard responses as helpful that focus on the positive (vs. negative). Finally, we discuss implications of our work for counseling, health care, and public service settings, as well as for interventions that aim to promote compassion.

Keywords: culture, compassion, sympathy, affect valuation theory, emotion, American, German

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