A Question for Child's Play

So I am a Pediatric Nephrologist. I work with children with kidney problems. I make them take medications, some of which are shots.

This behavior has not resulted in popularity.

Click image to see original and more at disney.go.com

Explaining that the treatment will help them grow and feel better doesn't work that well. Not until the lesson is delivered by...an animal.

Walt Disney figured this out in the 20th century. So I ask my fellow Scientopians over at Child's Play:

Why can Mickey take my message home better than I can, at least in the school-aged group?

4 responses so far

  • Coturnix says:

    That's a great question! I hope Melody and Jason can answer it!

  • My completely wild-ass speculation would be that the child can self-identify with the cartoon characters, thereby making the delivery more effective. Or maybe presenting the information in narrative form engages the child's suspension of disbelief and means that it's more easily believed?

    I look forward to hearing what Melody and/or Jason have to say.

  • I also look forward to what Melody and/or I have to say 🙂

    It's a fantastic question, and I'll spend some time thinking about it.

    As a parallel, there's some evidence that cartoon characters are also good at getting kids to eat vegetables (at least within the context of a broader vegetable curriculum): http://scientopia.org/blogs/childsplay/2010/08/10/eat-yer-spinach/

  • Are they watching cartoons *while* they are being treated? Or is the idea that the kids are more tolerant of the procedure because e.g. Mickey told them its important for them to have the procedure, at a time other than during the procedure?

    There are lots of studies on using cartoons as a low-cost non-pharmacological tool for the purpose of distraction during medical procedures - overall there seem to be mixed results. Some studies report success, others not (perhaps it depends on the severity and invasiveness of the procedure).

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