Differentiation of Vicariously Induced Emotional Reactions in Children

Nancy Eisenberg, Richard Fabes, Denise Bustamante, Robin M. Mathy, Paul Miller, Ernest Lindholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


The purposes of this study were threefold: (a) to determine whether physiological (heart rate), facial, and self-report indices could be used to differentiate between different vicariously induced negative emotional states (i.e., those related conceptually to the study of empathy), (b) to examine developmental differences in the degree of differentiation in the aforementioned indices of emotional response, and (c) to assess the pattern of interrelations among heart rate (HR), facial, and self-report indices of response to emotion-eliciting stimuli. Preschoolers and second graders viewed three films that portrayed situations related to others' emotions of anxiety or apprehension, empathic sadness, and cognitively induced sympathy. Children's HR accelerated during the anxiety film and decelerated during the cognitive-sympathy and sad films. Children's nonphysiological reactions also were highly consistent with the film content. The interrelations among modes of responses were generally consistent with the view that the various indices were positively rather than inversely related. There were also some positive relations between the indices of emotion and a questionnaire measure of empathy. The results are discussed in terms of current work concerning empathy and other emotional responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-246
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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