A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

The Upside to Your Kids Losing Their Faith in the Easter Bunny – The Atlantic

In Nonsense on April 8, 2012 at 09:16

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The Upside to Your Kids Losing Their Faith in the Easter Bunny – Alexis Madrigal – Health – The Atlantic.

There is a fantastic literature about children’s belief in “fantastical beings.” It turns out that studying how and when kids decide to believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy lets researchers probe how their developing brains make sense of reality. At stake is how the kids measure adult input (“The Easter Bunny is real!”) against their nascent sense of how the physical world works (i.e. bunnies are not human sized nor do any animals lay plastic eggs filled with candy).

First, let’s establish that toddlers will believe almost anything trusted adults tell them. In one study, experimenters dropped a ball into one of three tubes in front of a two-and-half year old, then told the kids that the ball went into a different tube from what they’d just seen. More than 60 percent of the time, the kids believed what they were told rather than what they’d seen with their own eyes.

Second, belief in fantastical characters leads to the belief in more fantastical characters. So if you teach them about Santa, that could be a gateway drug to the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny and Ryan Gosling.

As for inculcating those beliefs, it’s actually more effective, especially with older kids, to say something like, “Scientists sometimes capture and study Easter Bunnies” as opposed to “I believe in the Easter Bunny.” As the kids get closer to double digits, they start to realize that no one has to say, “I believe in this desk.” We only affirm that we believe in things that aren’t actually real. So watch out: they get smart about conversational cues before you know it.

But actions actually speak louder than words. In one study, researchers actually made up a new fantastical figure called the Candy Witch, who gives you a toy in exchange for some of your Halloween candy. (My inner child loves and hates this witch!) They found, understandably, that kids who were told that such a being existed and then were actually able to complete the candy-for-toy exchange had a higher level of belief that those who merely heard the tale. The proof of the Tooth Fairy is in the cash under your pillow, am I right?

 

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