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The Bunnies Have No Trousers!

Kids’ books featuring animals with human characteristics not only lead to less factual learning but also influence children’s reasoning about animals

[dropcap style=”font-size:100px; color:#992211;”]T[/dropcap]hey have waistcoats, they have coats.

There are entire plots based around Benjamin Bunny’s efforts to get his jacket back before his mother catches him. The ducks wear bonnets. The world of Beatrix Potter is awash with anthropomorphic animals getting themselves into all sorts of morally high-handed cautionary tales.

But they have NO TROUSERS! No pants, shorts, knickers, pantaloons nor breeches. The long-term psychological trauma caused by World Book Day dress-as-your-favourite-character moments alone is unknowable. Some consistency, please, for the love of god! Naked animals, fine. Clothed animals, fine. Bare-arsed waistcoat-wearers? This way lies derangement.

Oh, and someone please put a bullet through Peppa Pig’s face.

A new study by University of Toronto researchers has found that kids’ books featuring animals with human characteristics not only lead to less factual learning but also influence children’s reasoning about animals.

Researchers also found that young readers are more likely to attribute human behaviors and emotions to animals when exposed to books with anthropomorphized animals than books depicting animals realistically.

Anthropocentric portrayals of animals

“Books that portray animals realistically lead to more learning and more accurate biological understanding,” says lead author Patricia Ganea, Assistant Professor with the University of Toronto’s Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development. “We were surprised to find that even the older children in our study were sensitive to the anthropocentric portrayals of animals in the books and attributed more human characteristics to animals after being exposed to fantastical books than after being exposed to realistic books.”

Factual language

This study has implications for the type of books adults use to teach children about the real world. The researchers advise parents and teachers to consider using a variety of informational and nonfiction books, and to use factual language when describing the biological world to young children.

An illustration by Dan BoothThe study was recently published in the online journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Source: University of Toronto
Illustration by Dan Booth not to be reproduced without his express prior permission

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