Evidence for a developmental shift in the motivation underlying helping in early childhood

Robert Hepach, Jan M. Engelmann, Esther Herrmann, Stella Gerdemann, Michael Tomasello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We investigated children's positive emotions as an indicator of their underlying prosocial motivation. In Study 1, 2- and 5-year-old children (N = 64) could either help an individual or watch as another person provided help. Following the helping event and using depth sensor imaging, we measured children's positive emotions through changes in postural elevation. For 2-year-olds, helping the individual and watching another person help was equally rewarding; 5-year-olds showed greater postural elevation after actively helping. In Study 2, 5-year-olds’ (N = 59) positive emotions following helping were greater when an audience was watching. Together, these results suggest that 2-year-old children have an intrinsic concern that individuals be helped whereas 5-year-old children have an additional, strategic motivation to improve their reputation by helping.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopmental Science
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 8 Feb 2022

Keywords

  • prosociality
  • motivation
  • early ontogeny
  • children
  • emotion
  • body posture
  • Kinect

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