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Department of Psychology pres.

Developmental Brown Bag: Introducing elevation to the study of children’s developing prosociality

Dr. Robert Hepach, Assistant Professor of Research Methods in Early Child Development Faculty of Education, Leipzig University

Social constructivism posits that helping behaviour emerges through young children’s interactions with others. This would result in a social motivation whereby children help others because they want to provide the help themselves. However, in a series of studies we find better support for an alternative explanation of children’s helping behaviour, one that emphasizes their prosocial motivation to maintain cooperative relationships with others, including their peers. To this end we studied a prosocial emotion that has thus far received little attention in the developmental literature: elevation. The central finding is that young children express positive emotions when seeing others being helped and more specifically when seeing others get the help they deserve. The pattern from a series of studies suggests that young children’s prosocial emotions are regulated not only by concern for their personal gain or by sympathy for others, but reflect an emerging sense of deservingness as determined by social comparison.

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