Talk title: Hobbes and Rouseau in the nursery: The origins of concern for others
Abstract: There has been considerable interest in recent years in early prosocial behavior, but less attention to the origins of individual differences in prosocial motivation. Our work is based on the view that very young children develop an early premoral awareness through their sensitivity to others’ goals and intentions and developing emotion understanding. But this premoral awareness becomes enlisted into self-regulated behavior through children’s experiences in family relationships. The research presented here examines the origins of individual differences in prosocial behavior across different tasks at two ages, and the correlates of these differences at 18 months in aspects of mother-toddler interaction observed in the lab. Future directions for research in this area are profiled.
ROSS A. THOMPSON is Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis. A developmental psychologist, he studies early parent-child relationships, the development of emotion understanding and emotion regulation, conscience development, and the growth of self-understanding in young children. He also works on the applications of developmental research to public policy concerns, including school readiness and its development, early childhood investments, and early mental health. He received the Ann Brown Award for Excellence in Developmental Research in 2007, and the University of California, Davis Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award in 2011. Thompson was a founding member of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, and was a member of the Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development of the National Academy of Sciences that produced the report, From Neurons to Neighborhoods (National Academy Press, 2000). He is President of the Board of Directors of Zero to Three, a national nonprofit devoted to infants, toddlers, and their families, and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the National Institute for Early Education Research. He has twice been Associate Editor of Child Development, the flagship research journal of the Society for Research in Child Development. His books include Preventing Child Maltreatment through Social Support: A Critical Analysis (Sage, 1995), The Postdivorce Family: Children, Families, and Society (coedited with Paul Amato) (Sage, 1999), and Toward a Child-Centered, Neighborhood-Based Child Protection System (coedited with Gary Melton and Mark Small; Praeger, 2002). He also edited Socioemotional Development, based on the 1988 Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (University of Nebraska Press, 1990), and is coauthor of Infant-Mother Attachment (Erlbaum, 1985). He is currently working on Early Brain Development, the Media, and Public Policy (University of Nebraska Press) and Emotional Development (McGraw-Hill). He received his A.B. from Occidental College in 1976, his A.M. from the University of Michigan in 1979, and the Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Thompson has been a Visiting Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin, a Senior NIMH Fellow in Law and Psychology at Stanford University, and a Harris Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago. He has received the Boyd McCandless Young Scientist Award for Early Distinguished Achievement from the American Psychological Association, the Scholarship in Teaching Award and the Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award from the University of Nebraska, where he was also a lifetime member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers.