Kapitány, R, Nelson, N, Burdett, ERR and Goldstein, TR (2020) The child's pantheon: Children's hierarchical belief structure in real and non-real figures. PLoS One, 15 (6). ISSN 1932-6203

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To what extent do children believe in real, unreal, natural and supernatural figures relative to each other, and to what extent are features of culture responsible for belief? Are some figures, like Santa Claus or an alien, perceived as more real than figures like Princess Elsa or a unicorn? We categorized 13 figures into five a priori categories based on 1) whether children receive direct evidence of the figure's existence, 2) whether children receive indirect evidence of the figure's existence, 3) whether the figure was associated with culture-specific rituals or norms, and 4) whether the figure was explicitly presented as fictional. We anticipated that the categories would be endorsed in the following order: 'Real People' (a person known to the child, The Wiggles), 'Cultural Figures' (Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy), 'Ambiguous Figures' (Dinosaurs, Aliens), 'Mythical Figures' (unicorns, ghosts, dragons), and 'Fictional Figures' (Spongebob Squarepants, Princess Elsa, Peter Pan). In total, we analysed responses from 176 children (aged 2-11 years) and 56 adults for 'how real' they believed 13 individual figures were (95 children were examined online by their parents, and 81 children were examined by trained research assistants). A cluster analysis, based exclusively on children's 'realness' scores, revealed a structure supporting our hypotheses, and multilevel regressions revealed a sensible hierarchy of endorsement with differing developmental trajectories for each category of figures. We advance the argument that cultural rituals are a special form of testimony that influences children's reality/fantasy distinctions, and that rituals and norms for 'Cultural Figures' are a powerful and under-researched factor in generating and sustaining a child's endorsement for a figure's reality status. All our data and materials are publically available at https://osf.io/wurxy/.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2020 Kapitány et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Uncontrolled Keywords: culture; dinosaurs; behaviour; teeth; children; clustering algorithms; surveys; emotions
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculty of Natural Sciences > School of Psychology
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2020 11:15
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2020 10:02
URI: https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/8324

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