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: Infants' sweat response predicts aggressive behavior as toddlers

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

Infants' sweat response predicts aggressive behavior as toddlers

April 23, 2013
Infants who sweat less in response to scary situations at age 1 show more physical and verbal aggression at age 3, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological ...

Babies prefer individuals who harm those that aren't like them (w/ video)

March 12, 2013
Infants as young as nine months old prefer individuals who are nice to people like them and mean to people who aren't like them, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for ...

Researchers find that infants mimic unusual behavior when accompanied by language

November 9, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—A new Northwestern University study shows the power of language in infants' ability to understand the intentions of others. 

Baboons, infants show similar gesturing behavior, suggesting shared communication systems

March 21, 2012
Both human infants and baboons have a stronger preference for using their right hand to gesture than for a simple grasping task, supporting the hypothesis that language development, which is lateralized in the left part of ...

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

August 15, 2012
New research from New Zealand's University of Otago is casting doubt on a landmark US study that suggested infants as young as six months old possess an innate moral compass that allows them to evaluate individuals as 'good' ...

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

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

New study suggests that reduced insurance coverage for mental health treatment increases costs for the seriously ill

July 19, 2017
Higher out-of-pocket costs for mental health care could have the unintended consequence of increasing the use of acute and involuntary mental health care among those suffering from the most debilitating disorders, a Harvard ...

Old antibiotic could form new depression treatment

July 19, 2017
An antibiotic used mostly to treat acne has been found to improve the quality of life for people with major depression, in a world-first clinical trial conducted at Deakin University.

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.