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: Online illusion: Unplugged, we really aren't that smart

Related Stories

Finger-mounted reading device for the blind

Mar 10, 2015

Researchers at the MIT Media Laboratory have built a prototype of a finger-mounted device with a built-in camera that converts written text into audio for visually impaired users. The device provides feedback—either ...

Why are women leaving the tech industry in droves?

Mar 06, 2015

Ana Redmond launched into a technology career for an exciting challenge and a chance to change the world. She was well-equipped to succeed too: An ambitious math and science wiz, she could code faster, with fewer errors, ...

We must defend science if we want a prosperous future

Mar 03, 2015

Today's Australians are, by far, the best educated cohort in our history –- on paper, anyway -– but this is not reflected in the quality of our political discourse. We appear to be lacking in courage, ...

Recommended for you

Online illusion: Unplugged, we really aren't that smart

13 hours ago

The Internet brings the world to our fingertips, but it turns out that getting information online also has a startling effect on our brains: We feel a lot smarter than we really are, according to a Yale-led study published ...

People in MTV docusoaps are more ideal than real

13 hours ago

More midriff, cleavage and muscle is seen in MTV's popular television docusoaps such as The Real World, Jersey Shore or Laguna Beach than in the average American household. Semi-naked brawny Adonises and even more scantily ...

Score! Video gamers may learn visual tasks more quickly

13 hours ago

Many studies show that video gamers perform better than non-gamers on certain visual tasks, like managing distractors and identifying targets, but a small new Brown University study provides gamers with some ...

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.