Could cosplay help kids be smarter? One study seems to think so

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Dec 6, 2017

It's easy for kids to get distracted these days, especially in an academic setting, where the temptation of screens is usually difficult to resist. With that in mind, six researchers decided to test an interesting theory to see if cosplay and playing pretend could actually help young children to be more productive.

In the study, titled “The “Batman Effect”: Improving Perseverance in Young Children,” the authors gave groups of 4 and 6-year-olds a test: They had to participate in a "boring" task on a computer for 10 minutes, with the option to play a game on a nearby iPad if their interest waned.

The children were split into three groups: a control, which asked the kids to think about how they felt while participating and ask themselves, "Am I working hard?"; a second, which asked kids to ask that same question in the third person (i.e. "Is Emily working hard?"); and a third group, where kids were encouraged to pick well-known superheroes who were good at working hard and to dress up as the characters they chose. Once they'd donned their own cosplay, they were referred to by the name of the character, not their own: "Is Batman working hard?"

Although the results of the study showed that the kids spent significantly more time playing games on the iPad than actually performing the "work" task, it also revealed that the ones pretending to be superheroes did work more than their peers who were only asked to think of themselves normally and outside a particular hero identity.

It's not the first time that taking cues from superheroes has lent us mere mortals some more confidence; Wonder Woman's famous stance has been adopted as a "power pose" among women who want to project themselves as feeling more confidence and in control of any given situation. So it makes sense that kids would be able to focus for a longer period of time if they're attempting to emulate the heroes they look up to most. Maybe that's a tip we could all use when trying to make it through the day.