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Children's altruistic behavior in context: The role of emotional responsiveness and culture

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Rajhans,  Purva
Max Planck Research Group Early Social Development, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Altvater-Mackensen,  Nicole
Max Planck Research Group Early Social Development, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Grossmann,  Tobias
Max Planck Research Group Early Social Development, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA;

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Rajhans_Altvater-Mackensen_2016.pdf
(Publisher version), 332KB

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Citation

Rajhans, P., Altvater-Mackensen, N., Vaish, A., & Grossmann, T. (2016). Children's altruistic behavior in context: The role of emotional responsiveness and culture. Scientific Reports, 6: 24089. doi:10.1038/srep24089.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0029-D6D8-D
Abstract
Altruistic behavior in humans is thought to have deep biological roots. Nonetheless, there is also evidence for considerable variation in altruistic behaviors among individuals and across cultures. Variability in altruistic behavior in adults has recently been related to individual differences in emotional responsiveness to fear in others. The current study examined the relation between emotional responsiveness (using eye-tracking) and altruistic behavior (using the Dictator Game) in 4 to 5-year-old children (N = 96) across cultures (India and Germany). The results revealed that increased altruistic behavior was associated with a greater responsiveness to fear faces (faster fixation), but not happy faces, in both cultures. This suggests that altruistic behavior is linked to our responsiveness to others in distress across cultures. Additionally, only among Indian children greater altruistic behavior was associated with greater sensitivity to context when responding to fearful faces. These findings further our understanding of the origins of altruism in humans by highlighting the importance of emotional processes and cultural context in the development of altruism.