Attentive Adults Increase Children’s Ability to Empathize
[Source: Science Daily]
With her colleagues, developmental psychologist Elia Psouni has studied the simplest form of this ability: children’s understanding that other people may have a false belief about something — because they lack information. As part of the study, children 33-to-54 months old were asked to predict what would happen next in an illustrated story that was suddenly interrupted. The researchers studied whether the children’s ability to predict that the main figure in the story would make a “wrong move,” since he held a false belief, would be affected by them hearing the story alone, in the company of an adult occupied with something else, or with an adult engaged in the story together with the child.
In two experiments, the children were shown a film developed by the researchers, about little Maxi whose father moves his favorite toy (an airplane) while Maxi is playing outdoors. When Maxi, later on, returns indoors and wants to fetch his plane, the film freezes, and the test-leader asks the child where he or she thinks Maxi will look for the airplane. In a third experiment, the children were read to from a picture book with the same story and illustrations, developed by the researchers, in which the last page was torn out.
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