Babies show sympathy at an early age, researchers say

Babies show sympathy at an early age, researchers say

It’s actually possible that your 10-month-old can sympathize with someone in distress. That’s according to a new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE. Researchers involved in the study say that babies actually clutched toward victimized objects being displayed to them rather than aggressive ones

In fact, the research team set up several scenarios with forty; 10-month-old babies— observing whether they would or could side with an aggressor versus a victim.

The first interaction involved 20 of the babies who were shown two objects, a yellow square and blue ball, on a screen where they both moved around not touching one another. Outside of the screen, the babies were given these objects in front of them in hopes to find which object they would gravitate towards. Results showed that nine of the infants reached for the yellow object while 11 went towards the blue.

In the second scenario, babies were shown a yellow square being hit and squashed by the blue ball repetitively in a violent manner. Results showed that 16 out of 20 times, the baby reached for the victim, the yellow square.

Researchers concluded that the babies not only assess “the roles of victims and aggressors in interactions, but they also display rudimentary sympathy toward others in distress based on that evaluation. This simple preference may function as a foundation for full-fledged sympathetic behavior later on.”

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Sarah Scroggins
Sarah Scroggins

Sarah Scroggins, health enews editor, is manager of social media at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She has more than 9 years of public relations and marketing experience with a Masters degree in Communications with an emphasis in PR. Sarah loves spending time with her husband and her two pups.