A study to determine relative cognitive ability of children and grown-ups examines the relative levels of fantasy and reality that can be perceived. Many graphs and charts in the link, but the bottom line may be very bad indeed for Robin:

While kids and adults are largely in agreement about reality/fantasy and fantasy/fantasy, believing that Batman is make-believe and Batman believes SpongeBob is make-believe, there is a difference in the within-world responses. Kids are more likely than adults to say that Batman believes Robin is also a fictional character. Even for children, significantly fewer give this response than in the other conditions, but nonetheless, this study does reveal a striking difference between children and adults.

But do kids really believe that Batman doesn’t think Robin is real? That would make life in Gotham City rather perplexing, don’t you think? Why would Batman be motivated to fight crime at all, if he truly believed that all his adversaries were fantasies?

There is another possible explanation of the data: that children simply have trouble taking Batman’s perspective. Their answers might simply reflect their own knowledge that Batman’s world is fictional.


  1. My five-year-old son is already keenly aware of marketing realities. I once tried to tell him a made-up story featuring a team-up of Iron Man and Martian Manhunter, and he blurted “Iron Man doesn’t even know that Martian Manhunter exists!”

  2. This sounds very Buddhist to me. I’m all for a Buddhist Batman… he’d be much more mature than the antisocial one from the past bunch of years.

  3. I’m agreeing with Barnmate.
    To kids, Robin is a character in the Teen Titans universe, which never saw Batman in the cartoon.
    Batman is the guy in the Justice League, or the Movie, or that cartoon The Batman.
    To them, they’re two different worlds, a la Spongebob’s world and Spider-Man’s. The study completely forgot to take in this fact.

  4. Actually . . . it sounds more like the children don’t fully understand the question itself. And adult would understand the obvious: that even though Batman is a fictional character, the fictional character believes in the existence of his (also fictional) counterpart. However, a child instead comprehends the question a different way: If Batman is a fictional character, then everything he interacts with in the story would be fictional as well. You could ask, “Does Batman believe a brick wall is fictional?” within this series of questions and you’d still get a solid “yes.”

    I remember seeing a lot of questions like this in the Math Olympiads in elementary school which are a series of word math questions made to measure the level of cognitive thinking and perception in children, not just math skills. Each question usually has a lead-in designed to set thinking down a certain path, so that the “answer” most students get would seem obvious. However, a more perceptive child would realize that the lead-in has absolutely nothing to do with the real question (or that it’s designed to throw off the normal course of logic) and understand how to separate the false leads from the real.

    Ask a child how many apples you get when you put one apple plus one apple and you get two. Ask a child how many apples you get when you put one apple plus one apple and one orange . . . and they tend to answer “three apples.” Though as more perceptively aware and cognitive adults, we realize the answer is still two.