Autumn has started for good. Kids are long back at school. The weather has changed. You need a warmer jacket and perhaps a hat when you go out of the house. Leaves have gotten more red and yellow. You started to appreciate nights in again, with hot chocolate and Netflix. Hygge is the word that explains this time of the year best.
When you stroll around the shops, you notice a change in merchandise. All of a sudden you find yourself surrounded by pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. That isn’t surprising, it’s the autumn season in the end.
You walk into the department store, the home decor section, and Boo! All sort of vampires, monsters, ghosts, skeletons, witches, and devils are staring back at you! What’s once seen cannot be unseen. It’s frightening! But then you remind yourself – ‘Oh yeah, it’s Halloween!’.
Nothing on that day scares you anymore. Not even the evil mask of Donald Trump. You are no longer surprised that your neighbor’s dog is walking around dressed up as a pumpkin.
Halloween – the dark holiday or family celebration?
Halloween is celebrated in many different countries around the globe on the 31st of October. Trick-or-treating and costume party is the key on that day. Everyone is carving pumpkins. Some of them are real state of art – just take a look at Pinterest. Haloween day is so much fun. Entire families are usually involved, including even youngest kids.
Now, let’s talk about kids. How does Halloween impact the youngest? Is it innocent fun, or could it be dangerous? Perhaps there is something you could learn about your kids during Halloween.
Your kid is a thief!
‘No way!’ – you say. ‘My kid would never do such a thing!’. Well, maybe you the lucky one, having an angel child with the extremely strong will under your roof. The reality, however, was outlied in research a long time ago.
In the 1960s there was a study done by Edward Diener and his colleagues. They looked at the issue of doing something socially known to kids as bad, for example stealing. They wanted to know if kids are more likely to steal if they could hide under their costumes and masks on Halloween. Was hiding their identity good enough reason to gain more by stealing?
On the night of trick-and-treating, kids were presented with an opportunity. Adults greeting kids at each house put out the entire bowl of candy with clear instruction, that kids could take one candy each. Then adults quickly excused themselves and went inside, as they had important things to do. Kids were left alone with the bowl full of candy and very difficult decision to make.
‘Do I take just one candy, as instructed?’ or ‘I’ll take some more while no one is watching’. What would you do?
It seems that a couple of things have influenced kids choices. As reported in the study: ‘Significantly more stealing was observed under conditions of anonymity…’ Covered under masks and costumes, children felt anonymous. It’s easier to do something bad when no one is watching and it’s not technically you doing it. It’s the vampire’s, spiderman’s, big orange pumpkin’s fault in the end. Right?
Another influencing factor in whether or not a child would steal is supervision. Children who went trick-or-treating in the presence of parents or other adults supervising them were less likely to do a bad thing. Maybe your little one is an angel only when you are around
The third factor pushing kids to the dark side was the belonging to the larger group. Kids who were trick-or-treating alone were less likely to take more than they should. On the other hand, kids who approached houses in groups more often took their chances. In the end, when you can share the responsibility or blame it on Jonny, Bobby or Jane, it’s somehow easier to swallow th
Remaining anonymous, without adult supervision and in a large group, seems like a recipe for disaster! Go ahead, send your kid trick-or-treating in great costume covering their entire body, together with a bunch of their friends, without any supervision. You might be surprised what can come out of your usually nice and polite little one.
Are we all just phoney?
This study confirms the idea of deindividuation. When we dress up, cover our faces with masks, so that no one can recognize us, we no longer feel like ourselves. The alter-ego from the costume becomes us. We lose our personal identity. That’s why it’s easier to do things, we otherwise wouldn’t.
Person’s moral campus might change, depending on circumstances. It doesn’t mean we are phoney. I guess we are just human. In this case opportunity makes a thief.
Mirror mirror on the wall….
Interestingly enough, there is one simple tool, which can help to keep the moral campus in check. We all have it at home – it’s the mirror.
Psychologies studied Halloween again, copying the previous experiment, but with a small twist. They’ve put large mirrors behind the candy bowl at each house. Guess what happened then. When children could see themselves in the mirror, they were twice as likely to obey the rules, compared with times when the mirror wasn’t there.
Here it goes, the simple trick of self-awareness. Once we become aware of our actions, we can adjust it to fit the person we think we should be. Perhaps it’s good for all of us to look in the mirror. Quick check if the person on the other side is the one we aim to be will give us self confidence or time to readjust the strategy.
On the night of Halloween, just like on every other night during the year, we have a choice. We can be who we want to be, metaphorically speaking and quite seriously too. Just make sure, that your life is a celebration of the person you’ve always wanted to be. Otherwise, you might get scared form your own reflection in the mirror. Not only on Halloween.
Are you celebrating Halloween? What costume will you choose this year? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.