Kids work harder when dressed like Batman, study says

Kids work harder when dressed like Batman, study says
Posted at 8:46 AM, Dec 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-07 04:41:12-05

(RNN) - Want to make your young child have the gumption to work on a boring task? Dress it up, or rather, dress him or her up - as Batman.

Bob the Builder, Rapunzel and Dora the Explorer work too, apparently.

Having young children practice self-distancing - or "taking an outsider's view of one's own situation" - boosted their perseverance, according to a report by Rachel E. White and Emily O. Prager published in the September-October issue of "Child Development."

"Taking a mental step back from one’s own situation could help children persevere in the face of distraction," the study said. 

In the study, 180 4- and 6-year-old children were asked to complete a repetitive task for 10 minutes.

They were placed in control groups. In one, children referred to themselves in the first person when discussing their thoughts and feelings about their tasks. In the second, children referred to themselves in the third person. In the third,he children took on the persona of a exemplary character like Batman or Dora the Explorer.

Children were put to work on repetitive tasks that they were told very important. But they could take breaks by "playing an extremely attractive video game" on an iPad.

No surprise: The kids spent 37 percent of their time on the task and 63 percent on the iPad, the World Economic Forum reported in an article published in coordination with Quartz. 

Naturally, 6-year-olds stayed on task longer than 4-year-olds. However, children across both age groups who impersonated a superhero or other character fared the best at staying on task.

Children who took a third-person perspective on the self did second-best at working on tasks, and those who remained looking at the world from a first-person perspective did the least. 

"Perseverance is necessary throughout our lives, from children struggling to sound out each letter on the page as they learn to read, to college students studying organic chemistry late into the night," the study said. "Whether due to the tedium of the task at hand or the pull of the many more immediate gratifications that abound in our environments, success often requires persisting through some 'unpleasure.'"

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