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The influence of interpersonal synchrony on helping behavior, social bonding, and empathy in children

Faculty Advisor




interpersonal synchrony, children

Abstract (summary)

The current study examines the influence of interpersonal synchrony on typically developing 3-6-year-old children’s empathy and helping behavior. In a replication of a spontaneous helping task developed by Kirschner & Tomasello (2010), fish food is spilt on the way to an imaginary fish tank, creating an opportunity for child participants to help their play partner (adult or same-aged children) at the cost of the immediate gratification of feeding their own fish first. Cognitive and Affective empathy were measured in an emotion assessment task using a 7-point Likert scale. Both helping and empathy measures were assessed before and after the synchronization task, where children clapped to metronome sounds that were either in- or out- of synchrony. It was found that helping behavior and empathy were not significantly higher in the synchrony condition when compared with the asynchronous condition. Furthermore, pairwise comparisons of pre- and post- helping and empathy measures remained unchanged across synchronizing conditions, and no differences in the frequency of eye-contact and smiles¬ were found during the synchronization task. Although a trend emerged wherein children were more likely to help same-aged peers when compared with adult playmates, follow-up studies with modifications to the task are needed to optimize the performance of child playmates. While our findings do not show an effect of synchrony on enhancing the social connections and prosocial abilities in our current sample, further research is needed to explore possible age-related differences that may account for discrepancies observed between the current study and those reported in previous research.

Publication Information


Presented at the Undergraduate Research in Science Conference of Alberta (URSCA).

Item Type

Undergraduate Thesis




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