The relation between nonverbal indices of empathy and preschoolers' prosocial behavior

Randy Lennon, Nancy Eisenberg, James Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In most of the research concerning empathy and its relation to prosocial behavior in children, picture/story indices of empathy have been used. There is reason, however, to question both their validity and the results of research findings based on their use. Thus, the purposes of the present study were (a) to examine the relation between prosocial behavior and preschoolers' state and trate empathy (as measured with) indices of the children's facial and gestural responsiveness to another's distress), and (b) to determine the association between the commonly used picture/story measure of empathy (Feshbach and Roe's [1968] Affective Situations Test for Empathy [FASTE]) and both prosocial behavior and the nonverbal indices of empathy. Thirty-five preschool children's facial and gestural empathy was measured on two occations; prosocial behavior was assessed on three occasions; and the FASTE was administered to all children. The three indices of facial/gestural empathy tended to be interrelated and stable over a week's time (with the exception of gestural responses). For boys, facial reactivity was related to helping of those with whom they had empathized. Facial and gestural empathy, but not FASTE scores, were significantly positively related to a composite measure of anonymous prosocial behavior. Performance on the FASTE was unrelated to facial/gestural empathy, but was associated with girl' private donations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-224
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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