Are fairytales misleading? Do you believe that they can be sending the wrong messages to children and possibly creating a specific memory error schema?

Reviewing schemas in class we learned that one type of memory error is a schema. A schema is what you perceived many times. Schemas help you to use your top down generic knowledge of the things that we don’t recall well but have a general idea of what is correct. According to the article Fairytales and childhood stories can be sending what is considered a wrong doing schema.

Of course, this broke my heart reading it because I have always dreamed of living a fairytale life that results in a happy ending. Well reality hit, and adulthood has shown otherwise but a girl can dream. That is why I find this article so interesting because I believe maybe that is the reason why I have been so mislead until I was out of high school and in college with bills and other things to make my life stressful.

In the article it states that Cinderalla, Three Little pigs, Hansel & Gretel, little red riding hood, along with many other childhood stories and fairytales, all have bad intentions and actions with a harmed victim in the story. This is a harmful way of viewing things as a child because it shapes our mindset and morality of human patterns and even the breakdown of relationships. Not only does this effect come from movies but from home and school as well.

When considering a wrong doing schema in a relationship is the idea that there is something bad about your partner. There are thoughts that they are selfish, inconsiderate, portray negative thoughts and feelings, and feelings of being harmed. The wrong doing schema infers that there is a bad person in their life that has wronged them in some way to effect their way of thinking and feeling currently. This idea can come from the fairytales and childhood stories of the wrong doing schema because many of the stories start with a negative impact on the character, in Cinderalla. In the story she has a evil step mother and step sisters treating her unfairly. In the three little pigs the big bad wolf was out to get them. They all result into a happy ending but the message that we may be receiving most of all is that there was a wrong doing in each of them and hopefully something good will come from it.

. There are many effects of schemas on memory such as direct inferences at retrieval (not knowing something for sure but using your schema to guess what it maybe), intrusion error (adding what fits the schema but wasn’t necessarily in the schema), and direct attention at encoding (paying attention to what is expected versus what is not understood).

In this case using a direct inference in a relationship with someone if we know that they are harboring bad feeling we may think that they have been mistreated in some way by someone but are not really sure. We may believe that they are negative and will more than likely say something terrible or do something bad because that is how they are (evil step sisters and mom, big bad wolf). Giving direct attention to encoding can be the idea of something bad happening in every story or fairytale and hoping for a happy ending, which eventually comes in the story.

In many ways I can see how this can impact a child’s way of thinking because we see the bad in a lot of things because it can be scary and memorable. I don’t believe it shapes us completely as an adult but may have a small impact of how we feel growing up.






Gottman, J. M. (2011). The science of trust:  Emotional attunement for couples. New York: W. W. Norton.

3 thoughts on “Fairytales!

  1. rfetty3

    As you said this breaks my heart as well because my inner child wants to say i will grow up get a nice job with nice things and live a nice life…..not always true but you can dream! I also like to compare this to what we recently learned in class with associating things with a positive or negative meaning! It could be good to show kids hey some bad things can happen so that way they don’t expect their life to be peachy but then again to expose them to too much bad could show them hey life sucks. I like this post but defiantly want to add to it by stating positive association and negative association. I sill love my kid movies though lol its an escape from reality of college and bills.

  2. jcarey

    Wow I never thought of it in this way. As a kid, I loved all Disney movies and never realized how lots of them have very negative connotations. I don’t think kids’ brains are developed enough to understand some of the negative things that happen in fairytales, so I don’t think there is actual harm in watching them. It is really weird watching them as an adult because you realize how scary some things were. Like when Nemo lost his mom in Finding Nemo, how was I not scarred by that??? It’s weird looking back because I wish I knew what I was thinking as a kid. I really liked this post!

  3. abolen

    This was a very interesting post to read about. For a young child, it is easy to watch classic Disney movies without consciously thinking about the logical aspects. As an adult, it can be much easier to point out the unrealistic elements of Disney movies. Personally, I do not really enjoy watching Disney movies because I know that the movie is based on unrealistic expectations. I am not sure if studies have already been done, but it would be interesting to see if repeatedly watching movies with a pattern of always having a happy ending as a child makes a difference in how people view the world as adults. The connection to schemas would certainly be interesting to include for a study like this. Another point to consider would be that most Disney movies, or movies in general, are not meant to be taken in a strictly realistic sense. Thus, is there a difference in perception knowing that movies are not depicted as reality?

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