Preschool children listened to a children's storybook about an animal character, with reading being terminated prior to, or after, problem resolution. The children's empathic understanding of how the animal character felt was assessed, and they were then asked to draw, with strength of pressure on the page (as evident on attached carbon copies) serving as the index of arousal. Children then responded how another child or they themselves would feel in response to three short, aversive vignettes. As compared to their control level of arousal, children hearing the storybook evidenced increased arousal when the story was terminated prior to problem resolution; this increase was primarily evident in those children who expressed empathic understanding of the affective reactions of the animal character in the storybook. Children who evidenced empathic understanding also indicated that they and other children would feel bad in the aversive vignettes, but they expected other children to experience more negative affect than they themselves would experience. The results were discussed in terms of children's emergent understanding of fiction.
- animal characters
- self versus other