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Study: Babies' attention to faces linked to development of empathy

Tampere University researchers found that attentiveness to faces at the age of seven months can be linked to how children develop empathy at a later age.

vauva vanhemman sylissä
Image: AOP

Babies who demonstrate an interest in human faces may turn out to be more attuned to others’ needs, according to new research by the University of Tampere.

In a study that involved more than 200 infants from the Tampere region, researchers found that attentiveness to faces at the age of seven months can be linked to how much children develop empathy at a later age in their development.

According to the results, seven-month-old infants who are drawn to the faces of others generally demonstrated a greater desire to help others at the age of two and exhibited fewer callous and unemotional traits at the age of four.

The researchers evaluated social development by measuring eye movements at the ages of two and four, as well as conducting monitoring studies and parents’ accounts. They also examined children’s behaviour by assigning tasks in which the youngsters had the opportunity to assist a partner in trouble.

The study concluded that children are most attentive to faces at the age of seven months, and that this interest in faces gradually declines until the age of two.

The research suggested that the results could be meaningful for early interventions into problems related to social development.

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