Study: Kids Exposed to Religion Have Difficulty Distinguishing Fact From Fiction
A new study published in the July issue of Cognitive Science has found that children who are not exposed to religious stories are able to better understand that characters in “fantastical stories” are made up while children raised in a religious environment “approach unfamiliar, fantastical stories flexibly.”
The article, titled “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds,” demonstrates how children usually have a “sensitivity to the implausible or magical elements in a narrative” and can figure out whether characters are real or fictional by understanding that elements like “invisible sails” or a “sword that protects you from danger every time” are made up.
On the other hand, researchers Kathleen Corriveau, Eva Chen, and Paul Harris found that children from religious households do not share the same skepticism.
They write that “with appropriate testimony from adults” in religious households, kids “will conceive of the protagonist in such narratives as a real person – even if the narrative includes impossible events.”
“Children with exposure to religion – via church attendance, parochial schooling, or both – judged characters in religious stories to be real,” they wrote. “By contrast, children with no such exposure judged them to be pretend… Secular children responded to religious stories in much the same way they responded to fantastical stories – they judged the protagonist to be pretend.”
The authors conclude by saying that “religious teaching, especially exposure to miracle stories, leads children to a more generic receptivity toward the impossible, that is, a more wide-ranging acceptance that the impossible can happen in defiance of ordinary causal relations.”