Infants express non-verbal sympathy for others in distress

June 12, 2013

Infants as young as ten months old express sympathy for others in distress in non-verbal ways, according to research published June 12 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Yasuhiro Kanakogi and colleagues from Kyoto University and Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan.

Infants at this age are known to assign goals and intentions to geometric figures; hence the researchers used a series of animated sequences to test infants' responses to . In their experiments, researchers showed infants an aggressive '' between a blue ball that attacked and violently crushed a yellow cube and found that the babies preferentially reached for the victim rather than the aggressor. Infants' behavior remained consistent when the roles of the shapes were reversed and when a neutral, non-aggressive shape was introduced in the video, suggesting that their preference for the victim was not out of fear of the aggressive shape.

The video will load shortly
This movie file shows the attacker chasing the victim and hit it seven times, violently attacking and crushing the victim at the end of the movie. Credit: Kanakogi Y, Okumura Y, Inoue Y, Kitazaki M, Itakura S (2013) Rudimentary Sympathy in Preverbal Infants: Preference for Others in Distress. PLOS ONE 8(6): e65292. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065292

Based on these observations, the authors conclude, "Ten-month olds not only evaluate the roles of victims and aggressors in interactions but also show rudimentary toward others in distress based on that evaluation. This simple preference may function as a foundation for full-fledged sympathetic behavior later on."

Explore further: Babies may not have a 'moral compass' after all: New research casts doubt on landmark 2007 study

More information: Kanakogi Y, Okumura Y, Inoue Y, Kitazaki M, Itakura S (2013) Rudimentary Sympathy in Preverbal Infants: Preference for Others in Distress. PLOS ONE 8(6): e65292. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065292

Related Stories

Researchers study cry acoustics to determine risk for autism

November 27, 2012

Autism is a poorly understood family of related conditions. People with autism generally lack normal social interaction skills and engage in a variety of unusual and often characteristic behaviors, such as repetitive movements. ...

Recommended for you

Teen suicide—ADHD medication as prevention

February 1, 2016

Black-box warnings about the dangers of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications are confusing and could have serious consequences for the risk of youth suicide, according to researchers at the Institut ...

Twenty-five-point drop in IQ caused by lack of gene copy

January 27, 2016

No autism is alike. This is also true of most mental disorders. "We now understand that each gene mutation has a specific effect, which adds to other effects to draw a unique picture of the disease in each patient," said ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.