Experience Facilitates the Emergence of Sharing Behavior Among 7.5-Month-Old Infants

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Given the centrality of prosociality in everyday social functioning, understanding the factors and mechanisms underlying the origins of prosocial development is of critical importance. This experiment investigated whether experience with reciprocal object exchanges can drive the developmental onset of sharing behavior. Seven-month-old infants took part in 2 laboratory visits to assess their sharing behavior and ability to release objects. During the intervening 7- to 14-day period parents led infants in an intervention in which they were either encouraged to release objects into a container (bucket condition, n = 20), or share objects with the parent in the context of reciprocal object exchanges (sharing condition, n = 20). Results showed that infants in the sharing condition shared significantly more than infants in the bucket condition following the intervention, and infants in the sharing condition significantly increased their sharing behavior across the 2 visits. Parental empathy moderated the effect of this sharing intervention, but frequency of practice did not. These results suggest that reciprocal turn-taking in dyadic object-exchange interactions may facilitate the early emergence of sharing behavior, and this effect is mediated by parental empathy.

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