Children's understanding of relief in others

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Relief has been understudied relative to its psychological importance. Moreover, developmental psychology has focused only on the type of relief that is felt when comparing reality to a worse counterfactual world (counterfactual relief). Relief is also experienced, however, when an unpleasant experience is over and in the past (temporal relief). The current study aimed to explore whether these two types of relief dissociate developmentally which would support the notion that they have separate cognitive prerequisites. Across four experiments, we presented six vignettes to 407 children and 60 adults. Each vignette comprised of two protagonists who either endured an unpleasant episode, in temporal relief stories, or avoided an unpleasant episode, in counterfactual relief stories. The characters had different preferences, such that the endured or avoided episode was in fact negative for only one character; for the other character it was neutral. To test their ability to attribute relief, at the end of each story, participants decided which character felt happier. Theresults of Experiment 1 suggest that even 10-year-olds struggle to spontaneously understand relief,of either type, in others. However, in Experiments 2-4, when children were encouraged to focus onthe differences between characters’ emotional states, we found that 6-year-olds demonstrated a fledgling understanding of relief whilst 8-year-olds displayed adult-like judgements. We found little support for separate developmental trajectories in understanding the two types of relief. This study provides the first evidence about when children begin to attribute relief to others and has theoretical implications for recent accounts of relief.
Period4 Jan 20218 Jan 2021
Event title11th Budapest CEU Conference on Cognitive Development
Event typeConference