If your kid zones out while doing his homework, maybe he should put on a cape.
Photo: Hucknall juniors/Flickr
A new study found that while performing a repetitive task, four- and six-year-olds who pretended to be a familiar character, such as Batman, persevered significantly longer than those who remained themselves. The researchers would ask the child, "Is Batman working hard?" Batman sure was.
The results have to do with what psychologists call self-distancing. When we're in the middle of something difficult, it's easy to crumble under the pressure and sink into obsessive analysis. The study, published in Childhood Development, explains that mental separation helps people "transcend the urgencies of a situation and take on a more distanced perspective". And for young kids, identifying with a character's positive qualities can give them a greater drive to succeed.
The dress-for-success trick works with adults, too. In another study, Northwestern University researchers had a group of subjects wear white lab coats. Those who were told they were wearing doctor's coats were more focused than those who were told they were wearing painter's coats.
So go ahead and let your primary-schooler bring that Wonder Woman shield and sword to her next tutoring session. Everyone could use some extra superpowers when tackling multiplication.