Vicarious Emotional Responses

Vicarious emotional response is an emotional response that occurs after seeing an emotional response from others which can be seen in many children.  I feel like I have many personal experiences with many of these topics discussed in this book. For vicarious emotional responses, I would see this response every time I babysat or when I worked at a daycare. If a child fell or did something to hurt themselves, the child would first look at an adult to see their reaction. If the adult’s reaction showed that the child was hurt, you would then see the child start to cry. If the adult’s reaction showed that the child was fine and not hurt, the child would not cry and “just brush it off.” This is something that I struggled with when babysitting. Every time the girl I babysat fell, I would always get very wide eyed or make a sound (like “OH NO”) which would always cause her to start crying. I learned that if I just stayed calm and said “It’s okay, just brush your hands off,” she would be perfectly fine and continue playing. Children in this situation are looking for reinsurance from the adult to see how they should react.

The video I attached gives somewhat of an example of vicarious emotional response. In the video, the experimenter first shows the child what she wants the child to duplicate. After a few times, a lady walks in and sits to read a magazine. The experimenter again shows the child what she wants the child to duplicate, but this time the lady yells at the experimenter that it is disturbing. The experimenter then gave the child the items to duplicate what she had done. The child refuses to do it and keeps looking at the lady (who yelled) to see her expression. The child had seen what had happened when the experimenter did the action and saw the emotional response given by the lady which caused the child not to duplicate it.


[I-LABS UW]. (2014, October 7). Toddlers regulate their behavior to avoid making adults angry
        [Video File]. Retrieved from

Powell, R. A., Honey, P. L., & Symbaluk, D. G. (2013). Introduction to Learning and Behavior. 
      Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.


  1. I too found this topic very interesting and related personally to it. I currently work at a daycare and see these responses very often with kids in the classroom and on the playground. I thought the video was very interesting to watch. It really shows how children respond according to adult behavior. Great post!


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