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YOUNG CHILDREN'S THEORIES OF MIND ABOUT EMPATHIC AND SELFISH MOTIVES

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Abstract:

Young children's prosocial behaviors may be motivated by empathy. Forty-one 36–66 month-old children were actively involved with a pipe cleaner figurine play scenario. One figurine appeared distressed at an alarm sound. The other figurines simultaneously terminated the alarm, expressing either empathic or selfish motives. Twenty-four participants (58.5%) correctly pointed at the empathic and selfish figurines, and correctly restated their motives. Of these, 50% (12) consistently predicted empathic or selfish figurines' motives and actions in 3 other situations. Linear regression analyses indicated children’s theories of mind about others' selfish and empathic motives predicted preferences for snack sharing with the empathic figurine (R2 = .690, p < .001) and empathically helping a friend in distress (R2 = .702, p < .001).

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.2003.31.3.237

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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