See also: • I blame the parents • Educating Children • Magnetic Morality
Smarties, pencils and a child experiment.

The ingredients for this experiment are:

  • A tube of Smarties.
  • Some pencils.
  • A child or two.
Take a young child of about 3 years old with, say, their mother, and sit them at a table.  Put on the table a Smarties tube with the Smarties replaced by a few pencils.  The lid is on of course so they don't know what is inside the tube.  Ask the mother to leave the room and ask the child what they think is in the tube.  The child will tell you "Smarties".
Now ask the child to open the Smarties tube.  (Have some backup Smarties in case the child is too distressed by this loss of what they expected.)  The child will be reasonably surprised to find pencils and not Smarties.  Ask them what is in the tube and they will tell you "pencils".  That all seems fine so far.
Now put the pencils back in the tube (if the child tipped them out) and replace the lid.  Ask the child what they thought was in the tube when they first saw it before they had opened it.  The three year old child will probably tell you "pencils".  A five year old will most likely tell you "Smarties".  This indicates that the current knowledge  rather overwhelms the previous idea.  Ask the child what their mother will think is in the tube if she comes back.  Typically the child will tell you "pencils".
The thing is that the child now has an idea or picture of the tube with pencils in it.  So your question about what they thought was in the tube refers back to that dominant image.  It has superimposed the imagined image.  So asking them what someone else might think is in the tube and it seems quite obvious.  Pencils!  The significance of this is that the child has not developed an awareness that other people have other world views.
There are two main issues here.  First the child's imagined content is overridden by the experienced content and second that they don't differentiate between their world view and another persons.  Not surprising children fall out.  What is perhaps surprising is why the grown ups keep falling out on a much more significant level.
If you are interested in the education of children and their creativity you might find Educating Children interesting.  Or if you are interested in how people become evil you might like to read I Blame The Parents page.
nspcc
Whilst we are on the subject of children if you feel like doing something to assist them you can visit the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children website by clicking on the banner above as there are lots of different suggestions that they have.  If you don't feel like doing something now then don't.   Just reading this article has moved the world on a bit.  If you like this page please concider posting a link on your website or add it to your favourites or email it to a friend or something.  It all helps the good stuff go around.
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