Empathy development in infancy and toddlerhood

Being able to empathise with others’ affective experiences is perhaps one of the most complex social abilities. It involves a variety of processes from emotion perception to affect sharing, regulation, perspective taking, and self-other differentiation. Our research has shown that the newborn affect sharing extends throughout infancy, and is already related to other stipulated components of mature empathy (i.e., regulation and self-other differentiation). Building on these initial findings, we are now investigating the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms of these early empathic responses. In particular, we would like to understand the extent to which they rely on emotional mimicry mechanisms and specific patterns of frontal brain asymmetric activation, as well as how infant temperamental characteristics modulate their manifestation.
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