In this age of technology it seems harder than ever to keep children focused on any task from start to finish. But, according to recent research, the solution to this problem might be a literal case of dressing for success.
A clever experiment performed by researches building on the findings of previous studies has discovered something dubbed the ‘Batman Effect’, after finding that children were better at persevering through boring tasks when they were dressed up like Batman.
The six researchers, including Hamilton College’s Rachel E. White and Emily O. Prager and Catherine Schaefer from the University of Minnesota, had 180 children between ages four and six complete a boring 10-minute computer task as a part of the experiment.
Getting it done: Research has found that children have more grit when it comes to completing tasks when they are dressed up as Batman
The children were also informed that, if they became bored, they could opt to play a game on an iPad in a nearby room.
The 180 test subjects were separated into three groups, with the first being the control group. These children were instructed to think about how they were feeling throughout the task and to ask themselves: ‘Am I working hard?’ as they went along.
The second group were told to do the same, except think about themselves in the third person when they asked the question (‘Is Tommy working hard?’).
The last group were able to become someone entirely different while they completed the task, including popular characters Batman, Bob the Builder, Rapunzel, and Dora the Explorer.
They were allowed to dress up as the character of their choice and during the task were asked: ‘Is Batman working hard?’
While the children were free to move between the work task and the iPad, they were reminded: ‘This is a very important activity and it would be helpful if you worked hard on this for as long as you could.’
They were reminded of the conditions of their group – whether it was ‘is Tommy working hard?’ or ‘is Batman working hard?’ – every minute of the 10 minutes total.
To the surprise of no parents anywhere, the children all spent the majority of their time playing on the iPad – roughly two thirds to one third in play versus work. However, the kids that had dressed up as superheroes did the most work out of any of the three groups.
The children who referred to themselves in the third person in turn did more work than those children referring to themselves as ‘I’ or ‘me’.
There is no word on whether such a tactic would help adults at work, but the study’s findings help prove that kids were able to be more productive when they distanced themselves from their actions – but even more so when taking on the persona of someone inspiring and/or heroic.