Children Prefer Facts, Adults Fiction


Take a look at any kid's book section in a library and you're bound to find many fiction based books—books that embrace make-believe and fantasy worlds. Pop on over to the adult section and you're much more likely to find a wider variety of factual books. But one group of psychologists found out that just because kids are young, doesn't mean they are only interested in fiction stories. In fact, more children preferred factual stories then adults, in the study. 

According to an article on NPR, the paper published by psychologists Jennifer Barnes, Emily Bernstein and Paul Bloom, found that children were "significantly more likely to select the factual stories than were adults, who chose factual and make-believe stories equally often."

But what does this mean? Aren't children the ones who embrace fantasy and make-believe? The authors of the paper argued that the study had such results because kids are still learning about the world they live in, the real world. And, they point out, that "children more readily apply what they've learned when the story is realistic, as opposed to fantastical. Fiction and fantasy might be luxuries we can afford only after we've mastered the basics."

The article also points out, that while children may want factual stories, they are more likely to engage in fictional play, using their imaginations, based off the facts they have learned. The Smithsonian reports that while child play may look silly to adults, children are actually engaging in science when they play pretend. The study in the Smithsonian found that "children who were better at pretending could reason better about counterfactuals—they were better at thinking about different possibilities." And that ability to think about possibilities is a huge player in grasping how children learn. Kids at play are like "pint-sized scientists testing theories. They imagine ways the world could work and predict the pattern of data that would follow if their theories were true, and then compare that pattern with the pattern they actually see."

So while your child may want to be read facts over fiction, the interpretation of facts shows up in their play as they learn.

And as to why adults prefer fiction to factual stories? The study suggests that it offers adults a break from reality and is a luxury that the adult mind can afford since adults have a better understanding of the world and are not ingesting the amount of knowledge that kids are taking in.