Empathy in children: Theory, development, and assessment

[Speaker] Richaud, María C:1
1:Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (Argentina)

Although empathy is a basic process for social-emotional development, it has been difficult to develop a theory that integrates emotional and cognitive aspects, while creating operational definitions in order to empirically study the theories. In this presentation different theoretical perspectives of empathy, its development in children, and results about the dispositional and social origins of empathy and about their psychometric study will be discussed. While some authors as Watt (2007) claim that the resonance induction of at least one version of the suffering of others within us and intrinsic motivation to reduce suffering or distress of others are essential parts of empathy, results will be presented suggesting that empathic process is malleable and can be modulated by volitional acts of self-regulation and implicit assessment processes (Decety, 2011). Although these modulators processes may have adaptive advantages, they can also produce discriminatory behavior, so prosociality is not necessarily a result of empathy.
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