Children’s Heart Rate and Vicariously Aroused Affect in Response to Others’ Differing Emotional Experiences

Xenia Anastassiou-Hadjicharalambous1, 2, *, David Warden1
1 Department of Psychology, University of Strathclyde, Scotland
2 Department of Psychology, University of Nicosia, Cyprus

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© 2008 Anastassiou-Hadjicharalambous and Warden.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Psychology, University of Nicosia, 46 Makedonitissas Avenue, P.O. Box 24005, 1700 Nicosia, Cyprus; Tel: +357222351274; Fax: +3572 22 353682; E-mail:


This study examined vicariously induced Heart Rate (HR) patterns in response to others’ sadness, fear, anger and happiness, in children (N = 44, 22 girls and 22 boys, aged 7 to 10), when confronted with a brief emotion evocative film consisting of a series of evocative episodes each of which was of at least moderate intensity. HR was consistently higher relative to baseline in response to others’ fear (p < .001), sadness (p < .011), anger (p < .014) and the positive emotion of happiness/surprise (p < .002). These findings suggest that HR can reliably be used as a marker of vicariously aroused affect in response to a range of different emotions in children, given that stimulus intensity is at least moderate.

Keywords: Vicarious affective arousal, affective empathy, heart rate, children.