In-group bias in children’s intention to help can be overpowered by inducing empathy

J. Sierksma*, J.T. Thijs, M.J.A.M. Verkuijten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


An experimental vignette study was conducted among children (8-13years) to examine whether inducing empathic understanding is an effective intervention to overpower peer group boundaries in children's helping. Children were induced or not induced to empathize with the recipient of help, who was or was not part of their (imagined) group of friends. Results showed that children intended to help in-group peers more compared to outgroup peers when empathic understanding was not induced. However, when empathy was induced, they intended to help friends and non-friends equally. Inducing empathic understanding was effective independent of the recipient's level of need, and children's advanced social perspective-taking ability. Encouraging children to imagine how a recipient of help feels might thus be a useful strategy to prevent peer group-based biases in children's helping behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-56
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • intergroup helping
  • empathy
  • development


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