Empathy development from 8 to 16 months: early signs of concern for others.
ABSTRACT The study examined the responses of typically developing infants to the distress of another, prior to and following the transition to the second year. Infants' responses to maternal simulations of distress and to a peer distress videotape were observed from 8 to 16 months, using an accelerated longitudinal design (overall n = 37). Modest levels of affective and cognitive empathy for another in distress were already evident before the second year, and increased gradually (and not always significantly) across the transition to the second year. Prosocial behavior was rare in the first year and increased substantially during the second year. Self-distress reactions were rare overall. Individual differences in cognitive and affective empathy assessed in the first year, particularly at 10-months, predicted the levels of prosocial behavior observed in the second year. No gender differences were found. Theoretical implications and future research directions are discussed.
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ABSTRACT: The fact that humans cooperate with nonkin is something we take for granted, but this is an anomaly in the animal kingdom. Our species’ ability to behave prosocially may be based on human-unique psychological mechanisms. We argue here that these mechanisms include the ability to care about the welfare of others (other-regarding concerns), to “feel into” others (empathy), and to understand, adhere to, and enforce social norms (normativity). We consider how these motivational, emotional, and normative substrates of prosociality develop in childhood and emerged in our evolutionary history. Moreover, we suggest that these three mechanisms all serve the critical function of aligning individuals with others: Empathy and other-regarding concerns align individuals with one another, and norms align individuals with their group. Such alignment allows us to engage in the kind of large-scale cooperation seen uniquely in humans.Frontiers in Psychology 07/2014; 5(822). · 2.80 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Prosocial behavior first appears in the second year of life. How can prosociality so early in life be explained? One possibility is that infants possess specialized cognitive and/or social capacities that drive its emergence. A second possibility is that prosocial behavior emerges out of infants' shared activities and relationships with others. These possibilities have motivated a number of current explanatory efforts, with a focus on two complementary questions. First, what is evolutionarily prepared in the very young child and how does it give rise to prosocial behavior? Second, how do proximal mechanisms, including social experiences, contribute to the early development of prosociality? The papers in this special issue represent some of the most recent work on these questions. They highlight a diverse array of new methods and bring them to bear on the nature and development of early prosocial understanding and behavior.Infancy 01/2013; 18(1). · 1.73 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Early developments in toddlers’ responses to adults’ distress have been extensively examined, but less work has been directed to young children's responses to other children in distress. In the current study, we examined 12-, 18-, and 24-month-old children's (N = 71) behavioral and affective responses to a crying infant (doll) present in the room with the child. A comparison condition included a contented, neutral infant to contrast with the crying infant so as to disambiguate social interest from distress-specific responding. Results showed that 12-month-olds were neither particularly interested in nor concerned about the infant, although they did discriminate between conditions. In contrast, 18- and 24-month-olds were socially interested and attentive to the infant, but 24-month-olds exhibited greater affective concern to the crying infant than did 18-month-olds. Children at all three ages were also mildly distressed themselves by the infant's crying, and this did not decline over the second year. Both girls and children without siblings were more interested in the infant; no effects were found for gender, daycare experience, or siblings on affective concern.Infancy 11/2014; · 1.73 Impact Factor