Date of Award
Master of Arts in Psychology
According to Piaget, children in the "preoperational stage" of development have difficulty separating fantasy from reality, the mental realm from the physical realm. This stage theory of cognitive development is called into question by the current study. In this study, 48 four-year olds performed a judgment task consisting of causality questions after having listened to either a fantasy or a reality based story. Results from the Tukey test across story types and the control group (no story) support the hypothesis that children can differentiate physical entities from thoughts about physical entities, (i.e., Tukey summary statistic, dT=58. 07, p<. 05) and physical entities from thoughts about fantastical entities, (i.e., Tukey summary statistic, dT=63.80, p<.05). It was also found that children can differentiate fantasy from reality. Findings show that the environmental influence (fantasy or reality story) had no influence on the nature of the children's responses in the subsequent judgment task. Results from two experimenters concurred with the above findings, however their results differed significantly from each other. Verbal responses given by the children further support the data that children can differentiate the mental realm from the physical realm.
Kenner, Ellen Lee, "A Study on Causal Thinking Young Children’s Ability to Differentiate Fantasy from Reality" (1989). Open Access Master's Theses. Paper 1686.