Being moved by meaningfulness: appraisals of surpassing internal standards elicit being moved by relationships and achievements

posted on 24.01.2019 by Helen Landmann, Florian Cova, Ursula Hess

People can be moved and overwhelmed, a phenomenon typically accompanied by goose-bumps and tears. We argue that these feelings of being moved are not limited to situations that are appraised as pro-social but elicited when someone surpasses an internal standard. In line with these predictions, people were moved by relationships and success (Study 1), by reunion, separation, success and failure (Study 2) and by social, environmental and sports achievements (Study 3). In all three studies, the elicitation of these feelings was partially mediated by appraisals of surpassing social or achievement standards. In line with this, ratings of meaningfulness were closely associated with feelings of being moved and moving stimuli elicited behavioural intentions such as spending time with family and friends, helping others and/or achieving something in life. Thus, moving situations may remind us about what we perceive as meaningful and thereby help us to act accordingly.


This research was supported by a grant from the Heinrich–Böll–Stiftung to the first author.