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Child Development Research
Volume 2017, Article ID 6838079, 16 pages
Research Article

Children Adopt the Traits of Characters in a Narrative

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Rebecca A. Dore; ude.ledu@erodr

Received 22 June 2016; Revised 5 December 2016; Accepted 19 December 2016; Published 5 February 2017

Academic Editor: Elena Nicoladis

Copyright © 2017 Rebecca A. Dore et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Adults adopt the traits of characters in narratives, but little is known about whether children do so. In Study 1, 7- and 10-year-olds () heard a 2.5-minute recording about a professor or cheerleader. Reporting higher engagement in the professor narrative related to more time playing with an analytical toy (a Rubik’s cube), whereas reporting higher engagement in the cheerleader narrative related to less time playing with Rubik’s cube. However, although children were randomly assigned to a narrative, within condition children may have had preexisting personality differences causing them both to become more engaged in that narrative and also to behave more like that character afterwards. To control for this possibility, in Study 2 children () were given perspective-taking or objective instructions. Interestingly, both instructions created higher engagement than in Study 1, resulting in main effects of narrative. Children in the professor condition, compared to those in the cheerleader condition, spent more time playing with Rubik’s cube and self-reported higher levels of professor-relevant characteristics (e.g., smart, good at teaching). These studies show that, by the elementary school years and particularly when highly engaged in a narrative, children adopt the traits of a narrative’s central character.