Young children learn to tell fact from fiction

Dec 04, 2006

Children are able to distinguish between reality and fantasy between the ages of 3 and 5, according to new research at The University of Texas at Austin.

Young children continually are exposed to new information through conversations, books and the media. Much of the information is factual such as the names of planets, but some is fictional such as the existence of the Easter Bunny. Jacqueline Woolley, psychology professor at the university, found that by the age of 4, children learn to use the context in which new information is presented to distinguish between fact and fiction. The research findings are published in the November/December 2006 issue of Child Development.

Woolley and her colleague at the University of Virginia studied about 400 children between the ages of 3 and 6 who were asked to determine whether a series of new words were real or imaginary. For some children, the researchers presented the words in scientific terms: “Doctors use hercs to make medicine.” For others, they introduced the words in fantastical terms: “Fairies use hercs to make fairy dust.” The researchers found when children heard the new words in a scientific context they were more likely to believe the words represented real things than when they heard the words described in a fantastical context.

“These studies provide new insight into the development of children’s ability to make the fantasy-reality distinction,” Woolley said. “It is clear from the studies that young children do not believe everything they hear, and that they can use the context surrounding the presentation of a new entity to make inferences about the real versus fantastical nature of that entity.”

Source: University of Texas at Austin

Explore further: 'Fuzzy thinking' in depression and bipolar disorder: New research finds effect is real

Related Stories

The origin of the Moon and its composition

Apr 09, 2015

The Moon is thought to have formed from the debris of a small planet that collided with the Earth. Since the composition of other planets in the solar system differs from that of the Earth, it was expected ...

Communication devices enable children with disabilities

Apr 08, 2015

An interdisciplinary group of Northeastern University students and faculty have combined their knowledge of engineering and physical therapy to design, develop, and then deliver two low-cost communication ...

Recommended for you

Video games make you less sexist? It's not quite that simple

16 hours ago

The latest article exploring sexism in academia suggests that it no longer exists. Some have already grumbled about flaws in the study's design. But more than that, I simply don't believe the finding because there is clear evidence that sexism still exists. ...

Reducing prejudice through brain stimulation

16 hours ago

People show less prejudice after receiving low intensity electrical stimulation administered to the frontal part of the brain. Psychologists Roberta Sellaro and Lorenza Colzato from the Leiden Institute of ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.