Writing Prompt: Studies show 3-yr-olds are accurate judges of trustworthiness & competence in adults

Scientists report how children as young as three are able to accurately determine key personality traits based on first impressions of adults’ face, as outlined in Inferring Character From Faces: A Developmental Study. Psychological Science (March 6, 2014). Find the details here.

As a parent I find this enthralling, and a relief; haven’t we always warned our children not to speak to strangers? Apparently, we’re not giving them enough credit. Let’s explore how we writers may craft this new info into a story prompt:

1. After a harrowing battle between several kingdoms, the sovereign kings have fallen. One hopeful palace looks to its last heir, a child of only three. While he/she is too young to rule, the babe has a unique ability to determine the true and noble among sinister foes who conspire for corruption.

2. A picture book for young children featuring clear, realistic images of faces and expressions; simple scenarios wherein a young child is confronted by various strangers. Opportunities for lessons in trust, compassion, and/or relationship.

3. A sub-plot wherein the story’s superficial action is seen from the POV of a child. While the information and events may be not fully understood by the child character, the child can tell by certain physical clues that trouble is brewing. How does the child use this innate understanding to foil, progress, or twist the overall plot’s conflict?

4. According to a 2011 study from Lund University in Sweden, young children who witness crimes are better at recounting the events than we’d thought. According to the report, “Older children and adults have had more experiences and can therefore find it difficult to differentiate between reality and fiction.”