By: Nicole Capo
If you were a kid with any semblance of media hipness (or at least parents that were some-what to moderately absent), it’s likely you grew up with talking animals teaching you all kinds of life lessons — from the importance of friendship to tackling that pesky toilet. But a new study is being used to make the case to take away our favorite anthropomorphized critters. Apparently, they’re the reason why we suck at science.
The study, which was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, claims that teaching children fantastical ideas about animals actually makes it more difficult for them to retain facts about those animals because it distorts their view of the natural world. According to the study, part of this phenomenon occurs because children are more prone to compartmentalize fact and fiction. In other words, if the world and animals that children read about are completely far-fetched from what they know of reality, they’ll accept the entire work as fiction and fail to learn the facts surrounding that animal.
“Our work suggests that if you want to establish foundations for a more accurate scientific understanding of the world early on, you use factual books” head researcher Patricia Ganea explained to National Geographic.
Teaching kids about science is great and all, but, what about the empathy that they learn from reading things such as Aesop’s fables and other moralistic stories? Ganea’s preoccupation, she explains in that same National Geographic interview, is that having animals replace humans in stories could place emotional distance between a child and the moral being taught — which could then cause that child to not transfer the information into their own life.
Of course, not everyone is buying Ganea's argument that Bambi is bad for their kids. Katy Waldman over at Slate, for example, begs to differ. According to Waldman, there are multiple studies that show that reading that kind of literature actually fosters empathy among children and makes it easier for those kids to be able to relate those lessons to their experiences. And, given the widespread backlash the Frontiers of Psychology study has aroused, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing our dear friends Winnie, Bugs, or Hobbes going anywhere anytime soon.
Besides, if your kid is going to one day take over the world, wouldn’t you rather they be a kind, caring dictator instead of an evil tyrant?
[Pic via Flickr - Kenneth Knox]