Undercutting the ageless tradition of sugaring ethical lessons with endearing animals, new research suggests human protagonists are needed to change behaviour…
The study, which has just been published in the journal Developmental Science, found that those children who were read the book with human characters became more generous, while “in contrast, there was no difference in generosity between children who read the book with anthropomorphised animal characters and the control book; both groups showed a decrease in sharing behaviour,” they write.
The report itself concludes:
In conclusion, the present study revealed that books with proso-cial themes have immediate effects in promoting children’s real- worldprosocial behaviors as long as the story characters are humans or canbe construed as humans. Further, our study adds to the growing bodyof research on how picture books can best support children’s learning.Our findings are consistent with past studies that show that childrenare more likely to transfer knowledge learned from realistic stories totherealworldthanfromfantasticstories(Ganeaetal.,2014;Richertetal.,2009;Richert&Smith,2011;Walkeretal.,2015).Thisisnottosay that fantastical books are not useful for learning. Certainly, chil-dren may find such books enjoyable and entertaining, and thus hearingsuch types of stories can instill the love of literature in them. Further,engaging children’s imagination is important for their socio- cognitivedevelopment, and children clearly enjoy immersing themselves inhypothetical worlds early in development (Harris, 2000). However, thefindings from our study and existing studies taken together suggestthat for children at a very young age fantastical stories may not be aseffective for teaching real- world knowledge or real- life social behav-iors as realistic ones.