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Infant Behav Dev. 2010 Jun;33(3):279-88. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2010.03.004. Epub 2010 Apr 1.

Contagious crying beyond the first days of life.

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George Baritiu Institute of the Romanian Academy of Science, Psychosocial Research, 8, M. Kogalniceanu Street, 3400 Cluj-Napoca, Cluj, Romania.


Newborns cry in response to another newborn cry and researchers agree that these are the very early signs of empathy development. Yet, little is known about the development of these affect sharing reactions in infancy, beyond the very first few days after birth. The aim of this study is to investigate the presence of contagious cry phenomenon in infancy. Infants aged 1-, 3-, 6-, and 9-month-old were presented with the sound of another infant cry vocalizations. Their emotional reactions were recorded in terms of vocal (presence of vocal distress, latency, and intensity) and facial (anger and sadness) expressions of emotions. Results show that during the presentation of a pain cry sound, 1, 3, 6, and 9 months old infants manifest increased vocal and facial expressions of distress. These affect sharing reactions do not decrease with age. Both boys and girls manifest similar levels of contagious crying reactions. The results are discussed in terms of early empathy development.

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