Editor’s Note: Jacqueline Woolley is a professor and also chair of the room of Psychology who studies children’s knowledge of fact at The college of Texas at Austin. The opinions expressed in this comment are solely those the the author. View much more opinion at stillproud.org.




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You can have noticed the Halloween decorations have adjusted since you were a small kid.

Things have taken a dark turn, and alongside the jack o’ lanterns, bedsheet ghosts and startling ghouls, it’s no so unusual currently to find, even in the placid suburbs, grisly decorations special too-real-looking human beings meeting a violent end: hooks in your skulls, velvet in their bodies, or even depictions of human victims that hangings.


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what’s wrong through this, you could ask, if the score of Halloween is to scare and also be scared? The prize is that this the cross the line from the fantastical realm right into reality. And also that’s no what Halloween is all about.

i’m a developmental psychologist who researches how children distinguish fantasy from reality. My take it on Halloween is the it’s a playground in which kids can contemplate and navigate the difference between life and death, and between fantasy and reality.

Think around the costumed creatures that populate the roadways on this holiday – ghosts, skeletons, vampires and zombies (we’ll leave the end the pop society figures because that the objectives of this discussion: your “Elsa”, native Frozen, her Spider-Man…). This beings toes the line in between the living and the dead, v one foot in the real and one in the imagine world.

every one of them have enough attributes of real people to make them relatable – lock all have actually heads and also bodies, lock move, castle look around. At the exact same time, they differ from united state in simply a few keys means – ghosts, for example, fly rather of walk, vampires live forever. This combination of attributes, follow to scientists, provides these beings specifically salient and also memorable.


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A Halloween witch pull in black color stands through her back to the camera together she holds she broom and also is silhouetted through the rising complete moon. A swarm of bats flies in the distance.

death is a scary topic for countless people, yet one v which us all, arguably, must become an ext comfortable. Insert fatality into a fantasy world and it loses several of its allure and becomes an ext accessible.

In enhancement to dressing our children as these creatures top top Halloween, we decorate our homes with them. Ghosts flutter native trees and also skeletons dangle from railings.

every one of this, the costumes and the decorations, creates a world in which youngsters can suffer the blurry area between life and also death and also the emotions that might accompany this netherworld – probably fear, probably disgust– every while mainly feeling perfectly and comfortingly safe.

They feel safe and also are safe because it’s all knowledgeable in a fantasy world. It is the key to a successful Halloween experience.

Step ago for a moment and also consider one of the most natural and pervasive activities in which young children engage: ~ do so play. Numerous have suggested that the function of pretense is to carry out children through experience taking care of real-world grownup issues, together as cooking food and driving cars. But there’s a factor we don’t offer young youngsters real, sharp knives with which to exercise slicing onions, or real cars to drive around.


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Cindy Crawford dressed as Marilyn Monroe for an figure on The Tonight present with Jay Leno on Halloween 1996.