Tots, don't believe everything you read

Parents, beware: Beloved childhood classics such as Winnie the Pooh may be teaching kids false facts about the world — like tigers are bouncy and donkeys are chronically depressed.

Kids believe what they read — even if it's wrong. This may seem fairly obvious (don't adults do this too?), but it's now been statistically confirmed by scientists, who say that parents and teachers should use care in choosing books for their kids.

In the study, graduate student Lisa Fazio and Elizabeth Marsh, professor of psychology at Duke University, tested the effects of storytelling on children ages 5 to 7. The researchers recorded different versions of several stories so that half of a set of "facts" were wrong in each tale.

Fifty-two children listened to stories over headphones while looking at illustrations. They were then asked a series of questions (such as, "what's another word for autumn? Is it spring or fall?"). In some cases, but not all, these questions pertained to information that had come up in the stories. The results showed that children answered these questions correctly most often when they had heard a true version of the story, less often when the story hadn't discussed the topic, and least often when it gave wrong information.

Older children volunteered wrong answers more often than younger kids did (13% versus 6%) when the questions were presented as fill-in-the-blank format. The littlest ones, meanwhile, chose false "facts" more often in multiple-choice questions (27% versus 21%). The authors say this is because older children have better memories — meaning they can recall more general knowledge when asked to pick from a list but that they also "lock in" the brand-new information they hear better than younger kids, even when that information isn't true.

We promise that everything you've just read here is true. (But if you're skeptical, you can check out the study in the most recent issue of the journal Cognition.)

And for those of you who want to start weeding out misinformation in your own story book collection we offer:

Moon phase errors in picture books:

Inconsistencies in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire":

— Chelsea Martinez