Learning to Repair Transgressions: Toddlers' Social Learning of a Reparative Prosocial Act

Meghan Donohue


This study investigated children's social learning of prosocial behaviors in a transgressor context. Two-to three-year-olds (24-47 months, N = 54) saw videos of an adult help another adult in distress by performing a novel prosocial action. Children were then led to believe that they had transgressed to cause their parent's pain and sadness. It was hypothesized that children in the experimental condition who watched the video and then transgressed would be more likely to perform the novel action (imitation) and to display non-demonstrated prosocial behaviors (goal emulation) relative to children in two control conditions: (a) children who did not view the video but transgressed and (b) children who viewed the video but witnessed a neutral interaction. Children in the experimental condition were no more likely to imitate or emulate than children in the control conditions, suggesting that children have difficulty applying socially learned prosocial behaviors in a transgressor context.