This time of year, parents ask psychologists what to do with Santa. One question has not been addressed until now: Do children harbor resentment or develop trust issues into adulthood from learning the truth about Santa Claus?
Western Carolina University’s Bruce Henderson, a professor of psychology, and Brian Visconti, a former student in psychology now with Appalachian Community Services in Murphy, decided to try to gain some insight.
Using a research study group, they tapped into what cognitive psychologists call “autobiographical memory,” the part of long-term memory that weaves personal experiences into the story of one’s identity. WCU undergraduate students provided narratives about childhood memories of Santa and when they learned the truth. Students also provided ratings of the vividness and affective tone of their memories.
Previous research indicates that most adolescents and adults retain few memories of their lives before the age of 7 or 8. Yet more than half of the 85 students in the WCU study reported their memories of finding out about Santa were “fairly clear” or “like yesterday.”