Emotion Recognition and Understanding as it Relates to Empathetic Displays of Behavior in 12 and 24-Month Olds
Displays of empathy involve recognizing that someone else is experiencing distress and having a desire to alleviate that distress by responding in a variety of ways. Because emotions must be recognized and decoded before this behavior occurs, it seems logical to assume emotional understanding must develop before empathy. Although all major empathy theories state this, there have been few studies actually researching this link. The present study seeks to find a relationship and developmental pathways between these two constructs. Twelve and 24-month old children (N=14) were studied on two main tasks; emotional development, which involved both a recognition and understanding component, and an empathy task where an experimenter feigned being hurt and tried to illicit a response from the infant. Preliminary results showed that infants categorized as high empathy made a greater distinction among emotions, suggesting they may have had greater emotional recognition and understanding. Future research should continue to examine this link and the implications of the relationship between emotional understanding and empathy.
Dr. Marianella Casasola
infant development; emotion; emotional development; empathy
dissertation or thesis