Do infants expect others to be helpful?

Wooyeol Lee, Eun Young Kim, Hyun joo Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined whether infants assume that people will help others to achieve specific goals. Seventeen-month-old infants watched familiarization events in which a competent agent succeeded in climbing hills while an incompetent agent failed to do so. In subsequent test events, the competent agent either helped the incompetent agent reach the top of the hill (helping event) or simply passed the incompetent agent and reached the top of the hill alone (ignoring event). The infants looked reliably longer at the ignoring event than at the helping event. These findings suggest that, by at least the age of 17 months, infants expect a competent agent to help an incompetent agent. Our findings provide evidence that infants in their second year of life possess some expectations of others’ prosociality. Statement of contribution What is already known? Infants begin to reliably produce helping behaviours during their second year of life. Infants expect others to help an agent who is in need, not one who is not in need. Infants expect others to help, not ignore, another in need when linguistic information explicitly signals that the agent and the recipient belong to the same social group. What the present study adds? Infants expect someone to provide help rather than to ignore another in need under some circumstances with no linguistic information about their social group membership. Infants expect an agent to be a helper, not a bystander, even when they lack information about the agent’s moral characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-490
Number of pages13
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Sep 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the parents and infants who participated in this study and the members of the Yonsei Child Development Laboratory. We also would like to thank Kristine H. Onishi for helpful comments on a previous draft of this manuscript. An earlier version of this manuscript including preliminary data appeared in the Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 2010. This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2018S1A3A2075114).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 British Psychological Society

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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