We have all heard the phrase “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” more times than we can count throughout our lifetime. However, what does this actually mean? Empathy is a trait that has become an important topic of interest recently, especially in the lives of children. Of course, empathy is a trait that everyone possesses to one extent or another, but how exactly is it developed? Despite there being studies showing that empathy does have a small genetic component, there are also differences in empathy among individuals that could be related to non-genetic, environmental factors as well, that are very important to consider. This study sets out to investigate some of the key factors that influence the development of empathy, specifically in young children. We take a closer look at the differences between cognitive empathy, affective empathy, and prosocial motivation and how each of these play a role in the lives of young children. We investigated these three types of empathy in 19 children, ages 4 to 5 years from the College of Wooster Nursery School. Participants completed the EmQue-CA, a self-report empathy questionnaire, prior to testing as well as after testing. Participants in each group were read five books, the experimental group receiving empathy-related literature and the control group receiving emotionally neutral literature. Our results showed that there were no significant differences in empathy in pre-test empathy scores based upon sex as well as condition and no significant differences in post-test empathy scores by condition. We did find a significant difference between conditions in the amount of change from pre-test to post-test. These findings suggest that participants in the empathy condition may have experienced higher levels of emotional engagement, which could have resulted in them showing less to protect from the more intense emotional feelings.


Casey, Michael




Child Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Educational Psychology


cognitive empathy, affective empathy, prosocial motivation

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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