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Children Work Harder if You Use the Batman Effect

if children pretended to be their favorite superhero or fictional character while doing a boring job, they were inclined to work harder/ Photo By deklofenak via 123RF

 

Teaching children how to work hard and to finish their chores until the very end can be a tiresome task. Nowadays, it is easier for them to be distracted by digital devices. They may also have the tendency to complain and try to skip their chores.

Fortunately, research shows that there is now a simpler way to instill perseverance in kids. In a study conducted with the assistance of Dr. Stephanie Carlson, a professor at Minnesota University, it was revealed that if children pretended to be their favorite superhero or fictional character while doing a boring job, they were inclined to work harder.

What Is Self-distancing?

Self-distancing is defined by Scientific Parenting Tips as looking at one’s own circumstance through an outsider’s view. Using this technique may aid children in turning away from the various distractions that threaten to take their attention from the schoolwork or chore at hand. When they try viewing their situation from an outsider’s point of view, they will be able to think about it more objectively. As a result, this will help them keep themselves away from distractions.

How the Batman Effect Was Discovered

The research conducted by Dr. Carlson and her colleagues probed into the effect of using the self-distancing strategy on children. What they did was to gather 180 children ages four to six to participate in their experiment. All these children were told to be a “good helper” by assigning them to do a boring task on a laptop. Basically, what they had to do was to click if a piece of cheese showed up on the screen and not click if a cat appeared, according to Curiosity. They were instructed to keep doing it for as long as they could. The children were also told that if they got bored, they could take a break and play on a tablet.

The children were divided into three groups. From time to time, the children in the first group were asked, “Am I working hard?” On the other hand, the second group was asked the same question between intervals referring to them in third person. “Is (child’s name) working hard?” the experimenters would inquire. Lastly, the third group was told to pretend they were a fictional character, such as Batman, Bob the Builder, Dora the Explorer or Rapunzel, while doing their task on the laptop. They were repeatedly asked in the middle of the task, “Is Batman or Rapunzel (or whomever their desired character was) working hard?” The kids in the third group were also provided props to make them look like their chosen character. The  majority of them decided to wear a cape as Batman or get a crown so they could feel like Rapunzel.

After the experiment was performed, it was revealed that the 6-year-olds were able to last longer in doing than task more than the 4-year-olds. It was also shown that the third group, which was told to think of themselves as a fictional character,  were the ones that worked the longest on the chore.

 

being their favorite character stimulates the reward system of their brain/Photo By oneblink via 123RF

 

Although it is uncertain why the third group presented the best results, the researchers infer that pretending to be their favorite fictional character while having to perform a boring chore lets them view the situation from another perspective. It turns out that being their favorite character stimulates the reward system of their brain. In the process, this also lessens their stress and anxiety. In turn, this also helps them control their emotions better and do well in tests of executive function. When they grow into teenagers, they will have good social skills, score higher on SAT exams and perform better in schools.

 

while the child is confronted with a difficult challenge or activity they have to do by themselves, that they encourage the child to be their favorite character/ Photo By petro via 123RF

 

How to Apply the Batman Effect

Exploringyourmind.com demonstrates how to use the Batman Effect on kids to help them persevere more. They suggest that while the child is confronted with a difficult challenge or activity they have to do by themselves, that they encourage the child to be their favorite character. For instance, if they are trying to finish a puzzle, put away their toys or attempting to wear their clothes by themselves, the parent may tell them, “You’re Batman now. Batman wouldn’t quit! Keep going!”

Parents should be able to let the child get past the challenging task by themselves. However, if the child suddenly quits in the middle of the task, they could try to cheer them on in another way. Rather than referring to their child as their real name, they should call them by their favorite superhero’s or fictional character’s name. To illustrate, maybe they can ask their child, “Is Batman done tying his shoes?” Doing this will help motivate them and make them put in more effort.

Rachel White, an assistant professor of psychology and the lead researcher of the study at Hamilton College declares, “Pretending to be strong and admirable can help a child take on those characteristics of confidence and competence.”

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