Video: Babies Express Sympathy Before They Can Talk

Credit: Kanakogi Y, Okumura Y, Inoue Y, Kitazaki M, Itakura S (2013)

Babies don't need to be able to talk to express sympathy. When scientists showed 10-month-old infants the video above, three-quarters of them reached out for the yellow cube at the end. That's the one that gets "beaten up" by the blue ball in this geometric stand-in for a human fight. When the roles were reversed and the yellow cube was the attacker, the babies reached out for the blue ball instead. To see if the infants were merely afraid of the bully—and thus choosing the other shape simply because it seemed safer—the team introduced a cylinder into the video; the kids still reached for the object that got "hurt," the researchers report online today in PLOS ONE, suggesting that our concern for other people begins before we can express it in words. Feeling sorry for the victim, the team reports, is the beginning of fully developed sympathy for others that will show later in childhood.

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Posted in Brain & Behavior Video