Tom Jacobs alerted me to a piece he published at Pacific Standard, a publication that reports on studies in the social sciences.
Newly published research, he says, provides some support for the notion that children by nature want to help others.
“ ‘From an early age, humans seem to have genuine concern for the welfare of others,’ concludes a research team led by Robert Hepach of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. …
“But how exactly do you discover a toddler’s motivation? The researchers took a novel approach: by looking straight into his or her eyes.
“They note that our pupils enlarge in response to emotionally stimulating sights, and deduced this could provide an indication of what specifically prompts kids to perk up and take notice. Are they aroused by the sight of someone in need—or, perhaps, by the realization that they could play the hero by helping?
“Their experiment featured 36 2-year-olds, who viewed a scene in which an adult needed help reaching for a can or crayon. One-third of the children were allowed by their parents to help the person in need (almost all did so); another third were held back from providing assistance.”
Curious? Read more.
(By the way, the same institute was behind some research that Alan Alda featured on the PBS show The Human Spark, here.)
Photograph: Two-year-old meeting his cousin’s need for conversation.