Perception of Infants, Children, and Adolescents in Distress, Emotional Processing, and Altruism
Authors:Kelly Blackman, Andrea Burns, Gina R. Hernandez, Ciara Limon, Gerardo Rodriguez
Mentor:Kimmy Kee, Associate Professor of Psychology, California State University Channel Islands
Altruism has been viewed as a prosocial motivation of which the ultimate goal is to assist others in need of help. However, little is currently known about whether people’s responses to viewing adolescents in distress would be comparable to those for infants and children in distress, particularly in individuals who display altruism. The current study examined the effects of infants, children, and adolescents in distress on emotional processing (i.e., emotional identification and arousal) in 32 undergraduate students with higher versus 32 students lower levels of altruism. Participants’ altruistic behavior was assessed using the Self-Report Altruism Scale. Emotional identification and arousal were evaluated using a set of 48 images reflecting infant distress, children distress, adolescent distress, and infants/children/adolescents non-distress. These images were then rated using the Self-Assessment Manikin Scale. A series of t-test (two-tailed) revealed that individuals who displayed the lower levels of altruism reported more unpleasantness for images of infants in distress (t(62) = 2.62, p = .011, Cohen’s d = 0.65) compared to their counterparts who displayed higher levels of altruism. However, no significant group differences were found when viewing images of children and adolescents in distress and infant/children/adolescents non-distress. There were also no significant group effects in arousal for the four conditions of infants, children, and adolescents in distress as well as non-distress (ps = n.s.). Findings from this study could potentially increase our understanding of the role of infants in distress on our emotional processing and altruistic acts in everyday life.