Archive for December, 2011

-Contributed by Cathy Faye

Ever wonder how kids feel about Santa Claus? How they later recall their feelings about him? Two studies, one done in 1896 and one done in 1977, have helped answer these questions by gathering children’s recollections of Santa Claus.

One of the authors of the 1977 study, Dr. Ludy T. Benjamin Jr., describes those studies:

“In 1977 I conducted a survey of approximately 1,000 school children in Lincoln, Nebraska in the 4th through 8th grades. The survey was actually a direct replication of a study done on Lincoln children in 1896 by a student of H. K. Wolfe (as part of the child study movement). The author, Frances Duncombe, surveyed children’s ideas about Santa Claus and published her work in an 1896 journal. We used her questions, her scoring criteria, etc. to replicate the study as exactly as possible on a sample of kids the same age, 81 years later.”

In both studies, children were asked to recall:

  • what they thought about Santa when they were younger
  • how they found out the truth about who he really is
  • whether children should be taught to believe in Santa

The results, published in Psychology Today in December of 1979, showed some interesting differences in the findings of the 1896 and 1977 studies. For example, the 1896 sample was more likely to attribute superhuman powers to Santa, whereas the 1977 sample viewed him as a regular human being. In addition, when the children were asked how they learned the truth about Santa Claus, the 1977 sample was twice as likely as the 1896 sample to indicate that they had heard it from their parents rather than from their peers. (Click here to  read a newspaper article on the study).

The raw data from the study is now housed at the CHP. In honor of the holiday season, we bring you excerpts from the children’s responses. Happy holidays from everyone here at the CHP! Click on each image to enlarge:

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