Babies express empathy as early as 5 months of age. This, according to researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Hebrew University in Israel.
Researchers showed 27 infants, ages 5-9 months, two videos: One depicted a square figure with eyes walk up a hill, meet a friendly circular figure, and then the two walk happily back down the hill together. The other depicted a square figure walk up a hill, meet a mean round figure that hits and bullies the square figure until it walks back down the hill in tears.
After, the researchers presented the babies with both square figures on a tray. Over 80% of the babies pointed to or picked up the figure that was bullied, demonstrating empathic preference.
This study suggests that babies as early as 5 months old display empathy. Researchers say these findings discredit the theory that babies cannot feel empathy until after one year of age.
Uzefovsky, F., Paz, Y., Davidov, M. (2019). Young infants are pro-victims, but it depends on the context. British Journal of Psychology. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/bjop.12402