Return of the Candy Witch: Individual differences in acceptance and stability of belief in a novel fantastical being


Correspondence should be addressed to Professor Elizabeth A. Boerger, 207 Peabody Hall, University of Mississippi, MS 38677, USA (e-mail:


Recent research indicates that preschoolers make sophisticated choices in accepting testimony as a source of knowledge. Nonetheless, many children accept fantastical beings as real based on misleading testimony. The present study probes factors associated with belief in a novel fantastical figure, the Candy Witch, that 3- to 7-year-olds heard about at school. Short-term belief was predicted by an interaction of age, existing beliefs in fantastical figures, and whether the child was ‘visited’ by the Candy Witch. Stability of belief was assessed over the course of 3 weeks and again 1-year later. First year results revealed three patterns of belief: stable belief, wavering belief and stable non-belief. First year belief status was not related to age, but older children from the stable belief group were more likely than younger children to disbelieve 1-year later. The discussion presents a new proposal for the trajectory from belief to disbelief and an updated perspective on the role of individual differences in belief.