Paper - The emergence of human altruism: Preschool children develop a norm for empathy-based comforting

  • Metadata:
    • author: Markus Paulus, Monika W├Ârle, Natalie Christner
    • title: The emergence of human altruism:Preschool children develop a norm for empathy-based comforting
    • year: 20202020

    • url: Weblink
  • Background:
    • According to Dahl & Paulus, prosocial behavior can be classified into two levels (2019):
      • Empathic-based comforting at ages 2-3, expressed as an action
      • A norm for empathy-based comforting (assumed to develop in preschool)
    • Other studies show that breaking moral norms elicits verbal protest from preschoolers
  • Research Question:
    • Do preschoolers have a norm for empathy based comforting?
  • Method:
    • 3 (n=37) and 5 year-olds (n=42)
    • One of 3 scenarios involving 2 agents was shown, in which one agent fell down:
      • second agent laughed
      • second agent did nothing
      • second agent applied empathy-based comforting
    • Children could reward/punish the agent with cookies and rate the behavior on a scale afterwards. Furthermore, the spontaneous verbal reaction was measured (protest/affirmation)
    • (To encourage interaction with the puppets, one puppet made a mistake in a warmup phase prior, where the child could correct it.)
  • Results:
    • Cookies overall insignificant
    • 3 year-olds only protested in the laughing condition
    • 5 year-olds protested in both the laughing and the neutral condition
    • 88% of the 5 year-olds said the ignorant behavior was bad compared to 51% of 3 year-olds
  • Interpretation:
    • Norm for empathy-based comforting develops during preschool (3 year-olds show some signs, while 5 year-olds show strong signs)