Although the development of prosocial behavior has been widely studied from the behavioral aspect, the neural mechanisms underlying prosocial behavior in the early stages of development remain unclear. Therefore, this study investigated the neural mechanisms underlying the emergence of prosocial behavior in 3-year-old children. Brain activity in the medial pFC and right TPJ (rTPJ) and facial expression activity, which are related to the ability to infer others' mental states (mentalizing), during the observation of prosocial and antisocial scenes were measured using functional near-infrared spectroscopy and electromyography, respectively. Subsequently, the children's helping and comforting behaviors toward an experimenter were assessed to examine prosocial behavioral tendencies. A correlation analysis revealed that the children who showed stronger activity levels in the rTPJ while observing prosocial scenes had more immediate helping behaviors toward others than those who did not show stronger response levels. Moreover, the amount of facial expression activity correlated with prosocial behavior, including both helping and comforting behaviors. These results suggest that the development of mentalizing ability and the social evaluation of others' actions, mediated by the rTPJ, contribute to the emergence of prosocial behavior.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.