Journal Article The Influence of Cognitive Load on Empathy and Intention in Response to Infant Crying

Hiraoka, Daiki  ,  Nomura, Michio

62016-06-16 , Nature Publishing Group
Many studies have explored risk factors for child maltreatment, but little research has focused on situational risk factors such as cognitive load, which involves within-individual fluctuation. The current study sought to determine whether cognitive load led to within-individual changes in intention in response to infant crying. The study also sought to ascertain whether state empathy, empathic concern (EC), and personal distress mediated or moderated this relationship. Sixty-six participants completed a memory task (remembering meaningless, two- or eight-letter, English alphabet string), during which they were required to keep these letters in mind while hearing infant crying (or a tone). Subsequently, participants rated questions concerning state empathy and intention in response to the crying (i.e., intentions involving caregiving, neglect, or physical abuse). Results showed that cognitive load reduced caregiving intention and increased intention to perpetrate neglect. In addition, EC mediated the relationship between cognitive load and intention to provide care or perpetrate neglect. Moreover, cognitive load interacted with state empathy to predict intention to provide care or perpetrate neglect. These findings highlighted the importance of focusing on situational cognitive risk factors for child maltreatment and elucidated the role of state empathy as a mediator or moderator in child maltreatment research.

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