Do infants expect others to be helpful?

Wooyeol Lee, Eun Young Kim, Hyun joo Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020 Jan 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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