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Children's cognitive appraisal of others' distressful and positive experiences

  • Hans Bengtsson
Publiceringsår: 2003
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 457-466
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: International Journal of Behavioral Development
Volym: 27
Nummer: 5
Dokumenttyp: Artikel i tidskrift
Förlag: SAGE Publications Inc.


The study presents a theoretical model for understanding how children's cognitive processing of empathy-provoking information is linked to vicariously aroused feelings, and to prosocial and aggressive behaviour. Predictions from the model were tested in a cross-sectional sample of second-, fourth-, and sixth-graders (N = 175) and in a large sample of fourth-graders (N = 124). Two significant forms of information processing bias were identified: (a) one that enhances the awareness of potential threats towards the self or others, and (b) one that reduces the emotional significance of the stimuli subjected to processing. Children high in empathy and prosocial behaviour tended to experience moderate levels of threat and to modulate the emotional significance of empathy-provoking stimuli through cognitive restructuring. Aggressive children tended to use dismissive operations and typically experienced either very low or very high levels of threat. The oldest children differed from the youngest by using more multiple perspective taking and cognitive restructuring.


  • Psychology


  • ISSN: 1464-0651

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