The Exeter Santa Survey

Psychologist Dr Chris Boyle launches a 'light-hearted exploration of the Santa Claus phenomenon'.

A psychologist at the University of Exeter has launched a bizarre survey into 'believing' in Santa.

For some reason describing the wonder of Father Christmas as 'a collective societal myth which we portray', Dr Chris Boyle (pictured above), an Associate Professor of Psychology, describes The Exeter Santa Survey as 'a world first in that it is an international study aimed at trying to answer those questions such as "what is the average age when children stop believing in Santa?" [Ed: Umm... never??] and does it vary by country, between regions, and by religious affiliation.' 

Boyle says the survey idea comes from a Lancet Psychiatry essay, 'A Wonderful Lie' which he published with Kathy McKay last Christmas. 'This short essay considered whether telling a lie about Santa [sic] was a good approach or not – especially considering that eventually, the truth would come out. The issue was around trust and whether there was a breach or not.' 

Apparently, many people emailed Boyle to say that they had been affected by 'finding out' about Santa. 'It seemed to be more about the issue of trust, rather than about Santa not being real [sic]. I want to try to find out whether there was a sense of anger and question marks over other information given to children by parents. Many adults will remember how they found out and who told them.' 

Chris 'The Grinch' Boyle says the survey is a 'light-hearted exploration of the Santa Claus phenomenon… I am interested in understanding what it felt like when you found out as a child, that Santa did not exist [si… oh, never mind]. For example, what age were you when you found out? Was Christmas different after that? I hope that you will be able to participate.'

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- For more in our archive, see 'Can we have a happy Christmas?'

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