"Can you ask her to help?" An examination of the factors that promote and discourage prosocial intervention in preschool children
helping , shyness , looking behaviour , child development , prosocial behaviour
Previous research has examined young children’s ability to detect who would be most likely to provide help to others in a given situation, but little is known about their ability to intervene based on this knowledge in a real-life setting. In the current study, 48 three-year-old children chose between two actors to retrieve an out-of-reach object for the Experimenter; one actor was physically incapable of providing the object (blocked by a tall barrier), and one was capable. Participants’ looking behaviour between the two actors during the study was also recorded and analyzed as an additional, nonverbal measure of their prediction about who would help. Approximately half of the participants in the sample actively intervened on behalf of the Experimenter, but only after a direct request for help was made. Though the other participants did not engage in this helping behaviour, they chose the unblocked actor to help the Experimenter in a subsequent interview. Children also spent more time looking at the unblocked actor. Secondary analyses indicated that shyness prevented many children in the study from asking for help on behalf of the Experimenter from one of the actors. Finally, an unexpected side bias for looking behaviour toward the actors was found that has implications for how the study design could be improved for future research.