The assessment of empathy in early childhood

Randy Lennon, Nancy Eisenberg, James Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In much of the literature on empathy in young children, researchers have assessed empathy with the FASTE (Feshbach and Roe Affective Situations Test for Empathy). Consequently, much of the literature on early affective responsiveness and the role of empathy in prosocial development is dependent on the validity of the FASTE. However, examination of the literature on gender differences in young children's empathy has suggested a methodological flaw in picture/story techniques such as the FASTE; children's responses to these instruments appear to vary as a function of the interaction of sex of experimenter with sex of subject. In the present study, we empirically examined the effects of sex of experimenter on children's responses to the FASTE. Eighty preschool children were randomly assigned by sex to four male and four female experimenters and were administered the FASTE. Children scored higher when interviewed by a same-sex experimenter, especially if only the stories that the children comprehended (the happy/sad episodes, not the anger or fear episodes) were examined. The implications of the findings for interpreting the literature on children's empathy (especially gender differences in empathy) are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-302
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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