Children's Ability to Differentiate Between Real and Fantastical Entities

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In the field of developmental psychology, children have become a popular interest. By studying such changes children go through in the early stages of childhood, researchers provide better knowledge and insight on how these changes influence the actions and behaviors of children. It has been identified by many that during these stages, children have rapid mental and cognitive development. Likewise, during this time children are thought to easily confuse reality and fantasy. This paper will consist of two reviews involving two different studies which assesses the children's ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality. One will determine how fantasy/reality distinction evolves with age, while the other investigates children's perception of storybook entities. Both focus on children's ability to categorize specified objects/people/events.

Article One - Purpose, Hypothesis & Goal of Study

It is believed that a basic component of human cognitive skills is the ability to differentiate between reality and fantasy. Traditionally, children were assumed to confuse the boundaries between them. Yet, previous research has shown that three year olds are able to make reality/non-reality distinctions. The first article, published in 2004 describes a study performed by Sharon & Woolley. They hoped to provide a new viewpoint at a preschooler's level of fantasy/reality differentiation. They believed that children have a better understanding of these boundaries than most people assume. Believing that children have an understanding of what is "human" and what is not, which they use to determine whether entities are real or fantastical. The main goal of their study was to show this possibility, by exploring what childr...

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... impossible allows for a broader understanding of what can be considered as real or pretend. Both studies show that increased exposure to fantasy based activities, improve their ability to differentiate and likelihood to question the reality status of various entities/events. It is also important to note that environmental and social factors play a key role in what children believe is real, especially if "false truths" like Santa Claus are instilled by a dominant figure in the child's life.


Sharon, T. & Woolley, J.D. (2004). Do monsters dream? Young children's understanding of the fantasy/reality distinction. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 22, 293-310.

Woolley, J. D. & Cox, V. (2007). Development of beliefs about storybook reality. Developmental Science, 10 (5), 681-693. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00612.x
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