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© 2020 Elsevier Inc. Little is known about the underlying emotional bases of children's prosociality. Here we engaged 32 dyads of 4-year-old children in a reward-collecting task at the end of which one child was more in need of help. An adult then either helped the needier child (deserving outcome) or the less needy child (less deserving outcome). Both children expressed elevated upper-body posture (positively valenced emotions) when the more needy (but not the less needy) child was helped, whether it was themselves or not. In contrast, both children showed decreased elevation when the less needy (but not the more needy) child received the help, again whether it was themselves or not. These results suggest that preschool children's prosocial emotions are regulated not only by sympathy for those needing help, but also by a sense of deservingness as determined by social comparison.

Original publication




Journal article


Cognitive Development

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