Modern Kids Don't Smile When They Visit Santa

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NEW RESEARCH--
Modern Kids Don't Smile When They Visit Santa

Santa Researcher Makes List, Checks It Twice

by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, AIR staff

December 8, 2003.

Kids these days don't smile when they visit Santa Claus, according to research just performed by a noted business school professor. Professor John W. Trinkaus, of the Zicklin School of Business, in New York City, observed children at two large shopping malls and a major department store, noting each child's facial expression as the children visited Santa Claus. Every child was accompanied by a parent or guardian.

What Professor Trinkaus saw surprised and saddened him. More than 95 percent of the children were visibly indifferent or hesitant as they approached Santa. Only one percent of them smiled or showed other signs of happiness. On the other hand, Professor Trinkaus noted, nearly all of the parents were visibly quite happy and excited.

Professor Trinkaus's Santa Claus research extends his already impressive body of work. Earlier this year, he was awarded the 2003 Ig Nobel Prize in Literature.

Also of seasonal note: Professor Trinkaus also recently published a study called "Snow on Motor Vehicle Roofs: An Informal Look," in which he reported that: "Following a snowstorm, a viewing of 4,347 moving noncommercial motor vehicles, which apparently had been outside during a storm, showed about 65% had roofs which had not been cleared of snow deposits -- with vans outnumbering cars by about 2 to 1."

Below are details of Professor Trinkaus's Santa study.


DETAILS OF PROFESSOR TRINKAUS'S SANTA RESEARCH

The observations were made at two large shopping malls near New York City. Each mall had its own Santa Claus. This research took place in early December, 2003.

At each mall, the observer (Professor Trinkaus) stood near Santa and observed 150 children. Thus, he observed a total of 300 children in shopping malls. He later (see below) observed an additional group of children in a department store in New York City.

Each child's expressions were rated on the following scale:
EXHILARATED
HAPPY
INDIFFERENT
HESITANT
SADDENED
TERRIFIED

The results of observations at the two shopping malls:

.......................1st Mall visit.......2nd Mall visit.........TOTAL
Exhilarated.............0..........................1...................... 1 (00%)
Happy....................1..........................1.......................2 (01%)
Indifferent...........121......................126...................247 (82%)
Hesitant................27........................20.....................47 (16%)
Saddened...............0..........................0.......................0 (00%)
Terrified..................1..........................2.......................3 (01%)
.........................-----.....................-----.................-----
...........................150......................150...................300

PROFESSOR TRINKAUS'S COMMENTS

1. Children were mostly indifferent to see Santa. (86%)
2. A few children were a little suspicious. (16%)
3. There was no variance between the two locations.

The observer (Professor Trinkaus) then visited a major department store in New York City. The setting was different there from that in the two shopping malls -- the department store keeps Santa in an enclosed room, rather than in an area wide open to the public. Observations were not as easily made. At the store, the observer (Professor Trinkaus) observed thirty (30) children, obtaining these results:

Exhilarated.............0 (00%)
Happy....................2 (07%)
Indifferent.............22 (73%)
Hesitant..................6 (20%)
Saddened...............0 (00%)
Terrified..................0 (00%)
.........................-----
.............................30

PROFESSOR TRINKAUS'S COMMENTS

In the store, most children were indifferent. There might have been a little more happiness here than in the shopping malls, but to say that is perhaps a stretch.

SOME LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY (POINTED OUT BY PROFESSOR TRINKAUS)

1. These were the "subjective judgments of one observer.
2. The study cannot be replicated.
3. The researcher has no knowledge of the "value" system of individual subjects.
4. The expressions on subjects' faces could be attributable to events that came before or events that were to come after the observation.
5. The researcher doesn't know what individual subjects were thinking about.
6. Some effects may be attributable to parental (or guardian's) influence.
7. The researcher doesn't know what individual subjects expected Santa to "look like."
8. There were other "attractions" in the immediate area.

DISCUSSION BY PROFESSOR TRINKAUS

The results might suggest a "hardening" of society, even down to the level of kids. It might suggest a loss of "innocence" -- that kids are growing up too fast, that "childhood" is vanishing, that the culture is changing and that pragmatism is what counts.

 


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