[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]
When your little one trick or treats this Halloween will they think your neighbor’s bloody monster costumes are real, instead of pretend?
A growing body of research has found that the child's specific age makes a big difference in his or her ability to differentiate between say a ghost and someone wearing a white sheet.
A study in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology asked 64 pre-schoolers from ages 3-5 years to categorize a series of characters, like monsters, fairies, dragons, knights, dinosaurs as well as Santa Claus, Superman and Michael Jordan – into either real, pretend, or not sure categories.
The three-year-olds correctly categorized real characters 33 percent of the time (real being Jordan, dinosaurs, and knights), but the four and five-year-olds got them right 74 percent of the time.
All of them had a tough time with the fantastical creatures such as fairies and dragons, categorizing them correctly only 39 percent of the time.
Interestingly, among the pretend characters, the four and five-year-olds placed Superman in the correct category, but consistently placed Santa incorrectly. They insisted the gift-giver is real. The three-year-olds, on the other hand, pretty much confused all characters except for the knight, oddly enough.
So if you answer the door to any three-year-olds this Halloween, be gentle…because to them, this night is as scary as living inside the movie Nightmare on Elm Street.