Volume 112, Issue 2 p. 412-432
Original Article

Empathy as a buffer: How empathy moderates the emotional effects on Preschoolers’ sharing

Rui Guo

Rui Guo

Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

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Zhen Wu

Corresponding Author

Zhen Wu

Department of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

Correspondence should be addressed to Zhen Wu, Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University, 505 Weiqing Building, Beijing 100084, China (email: [email protected]).

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First published: 20 July 2020
Citations: 10

Abstract

This study experimentally investigated how empathy moderated the influence of external emotional stimuli on preschoolers’ subsequent sharing behaviour. Children aged 4–6 (N = 218) were randomly presented with one of the video clips that elicited sad, happy, or neutral emotion, and were then asked to play a dictator game with puppet partners. Results revealed that compared to the neutral condition, children with higher empathy increased sharing after induced happiness but did not change sharing after induced sadness; by contrast, children with lower empathy decreased sharing after induced sadness. It appears that empathy may enhance the positive effect of happiness while reducing the negative effect of sadness on sharing behaviour. These findings provide experimental evidence in early childhood to support approaches that emphasize the role of immediate emotions in moral decision-making; critically, such emotional effects vary with individual differences in dispositional empathy.

Conflicts of interest

All authors declare no conflict of interest.

Data availability statement

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.