Between Fiction and Reality – Children’s Perceptions of Santa Claus
Although being a fictional character, Santa Claus is widely promoted as being real. A study in Cognitive Development investigates children’s perceptions of live versions of Santa they encounter at malls museums and parades.
- Regardless the age of their child, parents highly promote Santa Claus as being real.
- The more parents promote Santa as real, the less children tend to question the reality of Santa.
How and when do children come to understand the live versions of a fictional, magical character, such as Santa Claus?
- 77 children (age range: 3-10 years); 38% males, 48% females and 14% sex unreported by the caregivers, recruited at an exhibit at a local science museum in a suburban area of New York over the course of the week before Christmas.
- 65 parents and caregivers; 3% males and 97% females.
- 197 adults; 39% parents of older children: between the ages of 7 and 12 years and 61% parents of younger children: under the age of 6.
- In the first study, children and caregivers visiting a Santa Claus exhibit at a local science museum were asked to participate in a short survey. While children were asked to answer some questions about the live Santa they just had seen, parents were asked to fill out a questionnaire, including questions about Santa promotion towards their children.
- In the second study, parents were asked to fill out an online survey, again including questions about promoting Santa as real.
Facts and findings
- The more children visited live Santa’s, the more they believed that a live Santa was the real Santa.
- The more Santa was promoted by parents, the less children tended to ask questions about a live Santa’s reality status.
- There was no relation between the number of live Santa visits and questions asked about the reality of Santa.
- Interesting finding: In both studies, parents highly promoted Santa to be real, regardless of their child’s age.