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Part of being human is the ability to imagine other worlds, to fantasise. It's a vital talent that underlies many others, including planning, lying and problem-solving. But we need to be able to keep fantasy distinct from reality - a lesson I learnt at a young(ish) age when I dived off the sofa head-first, attempting to imitate Superman.
To be fair to my younger self, you'd think the notion of fantasy worlds would be confusing for young children. Yet many studies have shown children are often precocious in this regard. For example, kids as young as four can tell the difference between fantasy characters and real characters, and they realise that pretending something exists doesn't make it real. They even understand that fantasy worlds are separate from each other. One charming study showed how three- to six-year-olds believed Batman could touch Robin, but couldn't touch SpongeBob.
Now Rebekah Richert and Erin Smith have expanded this literature by looking at pre-schoolers' ability to transfer solutions learned from fantasy stories to real-world problems - a pertinent question given that fantasy stories are often used to teach young children.
For the full story visit BPS Research Digest.
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