Youngsters want to see others receive help
Posted on October 9, 2012
In response to the recent discussion on this blog about whether babies are born moral or amoral, a reader has forwarded me a new paper published in Psychological Science that suggests two-year-old children are motivated to see others receive help.
Young children help other people, but it is not clear why. In the current study, we found that 2-year-old children’s sympathetic arousal, as measured by relative changes in pupil dilation, is similar when they themselves help a person and when they see that person being helped by a third party (and sympathetic arousal in both cases is different from that when the person is not being helped at all). These results demonstrate that the intrinsic motivation for young children’s helping behavior does not require that they perform the behavior themselves and thus “get credit” for it, but rather requires only that the other person be helped. Thus, from an early age, humans seem to have genuine concern for the welfare of others.
The paper is behind a paywall, but I’ll let you know if I see any news or analysis.