Dr. Cowell

This is the first developmental neuroscience article to explicitly differentiate between different aspects of empathy neutrally in children. In particular, we find differences when children see another individual in pain and are asked to consider how much pain they are feeling (cognitive empathy) and when children are asked how sorry they feel for that individual (empathic concern/sympathy). These two processes work on different timescales in the preschool child’s brain. Interestingly, preschool children’s neural responses of empathic concern and sympathy are related to their parents’ own empathy.

Decety, J., Meidenbauer, K., & Cowell, J. M. (2017). The development of cognitive empathy and concern in preschool children: A behavioral neuroscience investigation. Developmental Science.