The limited power of Santa Claus

As Christmas approaches, Santas appear in shopping malls (in at least some countries). Ig Nobel Prize-winner John Trinkaus’s series of studies [discussed here] illuminate a sad truth about the situation. The first and last of them:

1. “ViSanta-drinkingsiting Santa: an informal look,” John Trinkaus, Psychological Reports, 2004 Oct;95(2):587-8. “Using a modified six cartoon-face rating scale, employed in the health care field to help judge pain being experienced by young children, the facial expressions of 300 youngsters queued up to visit Santa Claus were observed and rated as showing indifference to the impending visit.”

5. “Visiting Santa: A Supplemental View,” John Trinkaus, Psychological Reports, 2008 Dec;103(3):691-4. “Four recent informal successive yearly enquiries of the emotions of 1,050 children (total) immediately before their visit with Santa Claus at a shopping mall suggested that about 80% displayed facial expressions, judged by an observer, as indicating indifference. To investigate possible change in emotions of children immediately after their visit with Santa, this study was conducted in 2007. Of the 280 exiting children observed, about 60% appeared to be indifferent.”