The current study examined whether and when young infants are sensitive to distressed others, using two experiments with a forced-choice paradigm. Experiment 1 showed that 5- to 9-month-old infants demonstrate a clear pro-victim preference: Infants preferred a distressed character that had been physically harmed over a matched neutral character. Experiment 2 showed that infants’ preference for a distressed other is not invariable, but rather depends on the context: Infants no longer preferred the distressed character when it expressed the exact same distress but for no apparent reason. These findings have implications for the early ontogeny of human compassion and morality, addressed in the discussion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychology (all)