60-Second Science

No Clowning For Hospitalized Kids

A British study finds that kids in hospitals hate the images of clowns that are often put on ward halls. Steve Mirsky reports.

Remember the Seinfeld where the lunatic in the clown costume asked Kramer if he was still afraid of clowns?  And Kramer said, “Yeah.”  Well, he’s not the only one.  A study of hospitalized kids in England found that they positively hate clowns, which are often depicted on the walls in children’s wards.  Researchers from the University of Sheffield took the novel approach of actually interviewing children, rather than relying on adult ideas about what kids like.  They spoke to 255 kids between the ages of 4 and 16.  And none of them liked clowns.  

According to the magazine Nursing Standard, one researcher said, “We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them frightening and unknowable.” Some representative comments from the kids were, “the clowns are scary,” and “they’re kind of creepy, the clowns.”  Yeah.  On the other hand, kids do like images of the Simpsons, Spongebob Squarepants, characters from Monsters Inc. , pictures of local teams and athletes and photos of the local region.  The researchers created a guide to kid-friendlier  hospital environments, at

—Steve Mirsky

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