Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Humans rely heavily on their prosocial relationships. We propose that the experience and display of prosocial emotions evolved to regulate such relationships through inhibiting individual selfishness in service of others. Two emotions in particular serve to meet two central requirements for upholding prosociality: gratitude motivates maintenance of ongoing prosocial interactions, and guilt motivates repair of ruptured prosocial interactions. We further propose, and review developmental evidence, that nascent forms of these two emotions serve their respective functions from early in ontogeny. The remarkably early emergence of these prosocial emotions allows even very young children to participate in and benefit from prosociality. We discuss the implications of and challenges to this conclusion and identify pressing future directions for this work.

Original publication




Journal article


Emotion Review

Publication Date





259 - 273