Your kid is smart. But does he believe in Santa or other myths? The research by this child psychologist will surprise you!
Has it ever happened to you? You tell your kid a white lie, and he sees through it immediately. However, when it comes to Christmas, your kid believes that Santa exists? Well, it is quite a common phenomenon, and the reason is quite simple.
Before we discuss why kids end up believing in the make-believe world of Santa Claus, let us take a look at the research of Prof Jacqueline D. Woolley. Prof Woolley is a Professor and Department of Psychology Chair, University of Texas at Austin, USA. Prof Woolley specialises in children’s understanding of reality. While it seems to be a simple enough topic, it is much deeper than you may imagine.
Children, according to Prof Woolley, are exposed to the world of fantasy very early in life. So it is fascinating to see how they end up understanding what is real and what is not. In order to research this, she set up an elaborate experiment with a popular subject: Santa.
Prof Woolley’s findings
The result of the experiment are not just phenomenal, they also challenge the earlier hypotheses that children believe in anything they are told. A few scholars like Richard Dawkins have published essays to this effect, adding that this provides the children an evolutionary advantage. To summarise him, the children who listen to their parents blindly get hurt less. However, this is not true.
According to Prof Woolley, children understand reality in the same manner as adults do – by making use of evidence. Just like adults, they do three things:
- They note the circumstances in which they get the information,
- They tally the new information with the things they already know,
- They judge the credibility of information based on the expertise of the endorser.
To set a context, if you are told that a new planet has been identified, an adult will believe it if he hears about it on a show on Discovery channel, with a footage captured from the International Space Station, shared by NASA. They would not believe it if a stranger gives this information in a barber shop.
Likewise, children are able to differentiate between possible, and impossible. For the remaining information that seems probable, they depend on an expert. So if it is a new planet, they would believe their Science teacher than their basketball coach, even though both are teachers at the same school.
So why do they end up believing in Santa Claus? Read on to find out.