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Study: Kids Exposed To Religion Have A Harder Time Telling The Difference Between Reality And Fiction

(Credit:  Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – New research claims children who are exposed to religion have more trouble differentiating between reality and fantasy in stories.

The study, which looked at 5- and 6-year-old children’s perceptions of a protagonist when reading three different types of stories (fantasy, religious and realistic), found that kids who went to church or were enrolled in parochial school (or both) had a more difficult time figuring out when a story’s protagonist was fictional.

While all of the children, regardless of religious exposure, judged the protagonist in stories that included only realistic ordinary events to be a real person, the results were mixed for religious stories based on exposure to religion (for example, the story about Jesus turning water into wine).

And when it came to fantastical stories involving magic or the supernatural, children raised in secular households were much more likely to deem a protagonist fictional.

“Exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children’s differentiation between reality and fiction, not just for religious stories but also for fantastical stories,” the researchers conclude.

The study is published in the latest issue of the journal Cognitive Science.

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