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The Child


The big question in the human part of the Affective Tigger project is: could an emotionally reactive toy augment emotional development? The scope of this study did not permit observation of the children over multiple play sessions, but it begins to scratch the surface. What we know from previous work is that, a child with a well developed sense of `other', who exhibits emotional restraint and demonstrates empathy, can be said to have a well developed emotional intelligence. These three criterion are evaluated for each child in the child-trials, to assess the age at which each developmental step occurs.

This study corroborates existing evidence that children develop a sense of `other' during the third year of life (see Appendix D, table D.1). Two out of the three three-year-olds did not have a well developed sense of other, as opposed to all of the older children who distinctly did understand the concept of `other'. Additionally, none of the younger children had an understanding of the existence of `other'. The demonstration of a sense of `other' could include sharing, or other signs that the child is no longer egocentric. More children need to be evaluated to produce definitive results, however, it can be suggested from this data that the sense of `other' develops very early in the third year for an average child.

[Figure 5-2: The sense of `other' seemed to develop early in the third year. Shyness, on the other hand, does not correlate, suggesting that it has little effect on the emotional development of a child.]

The demonstration of emotional restraint is the one factor that a child does not `fake'. It is our most accessible means for assessing emotional development. This research helps to confirm the development of emotional restraint during the beginning of the fourth year. The data (see Appendix D, table D.1) supports a correlation between emotional restraint and age (see figure 5-3). Two of the five four-year-olds failed to demonstrate emotional restraint. It is interesting to note that these two children exhibited a high degree of emotional intelligence despite their seeming lack of emotional restraint (see figure 5-3). This signals the age of transition at which the child is on the verge of acquiring emotional restraint. The premature demonstration of emotional intelligence may be yet another instance of mimicry, where the child `fakes' the behavior before she internalizes it.

[Figure 5-3: Both emotional restraint and the general assessment of emotional development correlate with age.]

The second cue to the level of emotional development of a child is the demonstration of empathy. Demonstrating empathy means the child understands what to do to make the Affective Tigger `happy' or `unhappy'. As mentioned previously, this does not require the child to understand the causal relationship between her actions and his responses. The hypothesis was that a child who comforts the Affective Tigger is displaying the highest form of emotional intelligence. Surprisingly enough, the data collected on empathy (see Appendix D, table D.1) did not correlate well with anything (see figure 5-4. Perhaps the paradigm of displaying empathy to a stuffed animal is not correct for this age group.

[Figure 5-4: Empathy failed to correlate with age. This suggests that either these children were too young, or the paradigm of empathizing with a stuffed animal is inappropriate for this age group.]

This study also suggests that shyness may not be a hindrance to the emotional developmental process. The only thing shyness correlated with was emotional restraint (see Appendix D, table D.1). Of course a child who is shy will exhibit few emotional outbursts. More importantly, the lack of correlation in other areas is what suggests that shyness has little to no adverse impact on the emotional development of a child.

next up previous contents
Next: Conclusion Up: Evaluation Previous: The Plush

Dana L Kirsch
Tue May 25 08:59:22 EDT 1999