How Basic Psychology Can Save Kids’ Lives

How Basic Psychology Can Save Kids’ Lives

Thanks to Dashlane for sponsoring this episode. Go to to learn more
about Dashlane’s Internet privacy and security
features. [♩INTRO] Every year, accidents injure or kill thousands
of children around the world. But most of these accidents aren’t really
accidents. They’re unintentional, sure, but they’re
not random, unpredictable events. Many of them are rooted in basic human behavior and that means there’s a silver lining here. Because if accidents are caused by basic human
stuff, that means you don’t always need fancy technologies to keep kids safe. Instead, a little Psych 101 knowledge can
go a long way. This isn’t some off-the-wall idea, either. It’s been done before… and it’s worked. Like, in the 1980s, researchers tapped into
our love of rewards to try and keep kids safe on the road. At the time, parents weren’t really putting
their kids in car or booster seats, often claiming it was uncomfortable for their
children, too expensive, or just unnecessary. And as a result, thousands of kids were being needlessly injured or killed in
car crashes. It was enough of a problem that in 1984, researchers decided to tackle it with some
basic psychology. At two daycare centers, they gave parents
tickets for a lottery where they could win prizes if their kids
arrived in car seats. At another two, they gave the incentive to
the kids themselves awarding them stickers if they arrived in
car seats. The reasoning behind this was pretty simple:
Humans love rewards. When we get one, our brains release all kinds
of chemicals that make us feel good and drive us to repeat behaviors so maybe it’s no surprise that this approach
worked really well. At one daycare, car seat use jumped from forty-nine
to eighty percent. And at another, it rose from twenty-three
to sixty-three percent. After the reward system was taken away, some
people gradually returned to old habits, but use never dropped as low
as it had been before the experiment. This tells us that simple reward systems can
get people to adopt safer habits, and it’s still hugely relevant today. Car accidents are the leading cause of preventable
deaths in children because many people still don’t use car seats properly. So maybe what we need is more stickers. Reward-based systems aren’t always ideal,
though, because sometimes you don’t get a second
chance at preventing an accident. A major example of this is accidental poisoning, which is the number-five cause of death among
children in the US. But this is often preventable, if you know
about the associations we form early in life. Even before we learn to read labels, we quickly develop instincts about what’s
edible and what’s not. For instance, many kids learn that juice comes
from a clear, round bottle, but antiseptic for their scrapes comes from
a dark, square one. So dark bottle equals “not food.” These associations are called affordances,
and psychologists have found that understanding them may prevent accidental
poisonings. In a 2015 study, they showed bottles to sixty-eight
toddlers between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half years old, then asked them
which ones were drinkable. The bottles had different transparencies,
colors, and shapes; used different labeling methods; and were
made of different materials. They also contained various liquids, ranging
from juice to torch fuel to paint thinner. The researchers found that children generally
considered transparent, rounded bottles safe to drink
because they looked like juice containers. That was especially true for torch fuel bottles, which also had juice-colored fluid inside. This was a big red flag, and after the research
was published, torch fuel companies started changing the
way they bottled their products so kids would be less likely to drink them. Of course, you can apply this basic psychology
at home, too. If you have children in your home, you can
keep them safer by storing things like cleaners and excess car fluids in proper
containers, rather than in something like an old milk
jug or soda bottle. Research gives us a lot of ways to protect
kids from predictable accidents. But the answer to how to keep them safe is
not always “reduce risks.” Sometimes, it has to do with how children
experience risks themselves. Research shows that kids who don’t get the
chance to take risks while they play don’t learn how to cope with situations
that scare them. But the ones who do face risks, like heights
or high speeds, are more likely to learn how to avoid hurting
themselves. So, as tempting as it is to bubble-wrap kids, it’s okay for them to get a little scratched
up sometimes. The team behind this work suggested that play
spaces should be only “as safe as necessary,” not as “safe
as possible.” And as an example of what this could look
like, they pointed to something called an “adventure
playground.” It’s a type of playground inspired by junkyards,
and is full of things like loose tires, rope, and pieces of wood. Kids can also build things with materials
like dirt, sand, and water. The point is to let them be creative. Some research has found that, even though
they encounter more risks, like playing on things they could fall off, children end up getting injured less than
they do on typical playgrounds. The study suggests that if they’re aware
of their own limits and the fact that they need to be on the lookout
for risks, they’re less likely to get hurt, even if
there are more chances to. Protecting kids from accidents is not always
intuitive especially when they’re fearless little
humans who just want to explore the world. But psychology has a lot of tools to figure
out how people’s behavior leads to unintentional injury or death, and
the better we understand them, the better we can keep our kids safe. Speaking of keeping things safe, this episode
of SciShow is sponsored by Dashlane! Dashlane is a desktop and mobile app designed
to make your digital life simpler and safer. It features a password manager, a virtual
private network, and dark web monitoring. They also decrypt your information locally
on your device, which means their servers only store jumbled,
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would be safe. Dashlane is a good way you can help keep your
information safe online, and if you want to check it out, you can go
to to try it for free or use the promo code “scishowpsych” for ten percent off Dashlane Premium. [♩OUTRO]



  • SciShow Psych

    Try Dashlane Premium free on your first device: Use the coupon code ‘scishowpsych’ to get 10% off Dashlane Premium

  • Adrian Gutiérrez Guzmán


  • Your Breakfast Is Everywhere

    You know, showing your kids manners help too. Had some kids call me disgusting today.


    The public school system should focus on teaching as many kids as they can psychology to help with their self-esteem 🔥

  • Brains Applied - Unraveling The Human Mind

    This is pretty smart…
    Also, kind of pretty logical?🤔

  • Peace, Love and Guns

    My whole life is an adventure playground…

  • Cariss Stewart

    So you're saying that if I want to keep my kids safe I should let them play in the junk yard. Got it.

  • Ben Miles

    TIL there are parents that dont always use a car seats for their daycare aged children! My car seat cost me 200 freaking dollars. My daughter better be get that ass in that seat! (Well, I manually put it there and strap her in but you know what i mean)

  • Practical Inspiration

    Some really interesting points, particularly found the basic ability to understand what might be edible particularly informative. Totally agree on not bubble wrapping kids

  • Yukihyo

    The fact that people need to be coerced into protecting their own children baffles me…

  • Bobby Girl

    Police need to focus on car seat violations. And a 3rd offense should warrant a visit from child protective services because that's straight up child endangerment.

  • Jason the Cripple

    When I was a kid, in the way back time of the '70s, there were these stickers called Mr. Yuck. It was a bright yellow (or maybe they were green, I'm color blind) stickers with a face sticking it's tongue out and its eyes closed. Basically making a yuck face. You would put theses on your cleaning supplies, and they had ads on TV telling kids to look out for Mr. Yuck becuase he meant poison.

    I wonder why they stopped that.

  • Militant Pacifist

    I thought I read “psychics”.

  • Bobby Girl

    Another psychology to be used is ask parents, "what do you think will be more uncomfortable and unnecessary, a dead or paraplegic child because they broke their neck flying out of the window or you precious child in a car seat alive and well?"

  • Jerry Rupprecht

    What about accidental poisoning from gummy vitamins?

  • Jerry Rupprecht

    Number 1 way to prevent accidents with kids: don’t have any.

  • horrorkesh

    I mean kids either need to be taught what's bad for them or what will hurt them or experienced it themselves

  • Ikajo

    Yeah well, kids should travel rear-facing until they are about four in order to be safe in cars. But only a few countries accommodate and encourages this practice. There are seats designed for children at that age and it is safer.

  • LeftPinkie

    This is a nice feel-good, pat-on-the-back video for the field. However it doesn't address or offer solutions to current problems. For example, in many households that I have babysat for, the parents will go out of their way to safely store chemicals like drain cleaner, bleach, and poisons. However, right there in the cabinet under the sink next to the dishwasher is a clear or white easily accessible tub of dishwasher pods and the pods are clear squishy liquid filled & sometimes sparkly… which makes them look like candy. I can't understand why the parents & the industry think it is ok to have this kind of packaging & have it within reach of children… just because it's convenient.

  • Chincer Dante

    as someone that grew up in a rural area surrounded by weeds and crawlers and uneven terrain i cant as a kid i took moderate risk like stepping somewhere, realizing my foot got stuck and that i loss my boot and proceed to realize no everything that looks flat can be step on and stepping tentatively to see if the ground or collection of sticks will hold, oppose to what a kid in complete confidence of their surrounding might do and just walk straight ahead like if was some sidewalk. the more varied the environment the more you question whats safe and whats not to do, but if you kid grows in all safety it will assume all is always safe

  • Ina Winchester

    In germany we have a drugstore that adds a very bitter substance in their cleaning products, so when children drink it they won't swallow it or at least definitely won't take another sip. I wish it was mandatory to do that. You can be very careful but sometimes something always could be forgotten or missed

  • americanv8ss


  • David Benner

    I'm my 32.5 years as an advanced trauma paramedic I have never seen the proper use of a car-seat save a life. I have seen proper use to be the cause of death of an infant.

  • Celina K

    So this is how the tide pod company plans to kill people

  • Trisha Schuman

    The last point reminds me of that town in the Netherlands that got rid of all traffic signs. Since drivers now had to pay attention, accidents plummeted.

  • Mark Schwartz

    1:14 So, I suppose this is why YouTubers very often describe the incentives associated with Patreon support as "cool rewards."

  • AngryDuck!

    Tricking kids into manipulating their parents isn't a tactic limited to preschools and car seats. It's the same mechanic that drives religion, the climate change hysteria, and the toy industry. It's not inherently a good thing.

  • McGturtle3

    Positive reinforcement

  • Supgamer

    1:48 actually it’s the leading cause of deaths in children in the us because many people are bad drivers that don’t use turn signals, run red lights, aren’t aware of other cars around them, and are distracted. Yes car seats increase the likelihood of survival but lack of car seats aren’t going to increase the # of car crashes

  • Ashmeed Mohammed

    overprotective parents are c*nts

  • New Message

    I know that basic psychology has saved my kids from certain death more than once.

    In that they seem able to recognize that when Daddy says "Flick that light switch one more time… I dare you.", he's about to lose his friggin' mind, and they stop.

  • Larry Phischman

    I'd estimate that under 30% of Americans are capable of being even decent parents.

  • Melissa Dawn Pinion

    I remember Sheldon throwing chocolates at Penny…

  • Zukaro Travon

    I'm glad they're finally realizing that bubble wrapping children is the greatest way to set them up for failure as an adult.
    (commenting on 3:25 and after)

  • Victor Cleemonts

    I was the kid who always climbed on top of the swingsets, it may be why I've never broken a bone.

  • Josh Keating

    As safe as necessary vs. as safe as possible reminds me of how I learned to catch a baseball. I started with a tennis ball, which is as safe as possible where I learned the mechanics. Then went to an actual baseball. I occasionally caught it, occasionally missed it all together, then it happened, I got hit by a ball at thrown speed. It hurt, a lot, I calmed down, went back to the tennis ball ( shortly there after the Softey safe ball came out which was a rubberized baseball). I then built back my confidence, then back to the hard baseball. After a while you lear. To trust your skills and learn getting hit by the baseball hurts, but you can get through it. Also you learn that when it is a sharp stinging pain stop. But if it subsides you can go back. If the sharp pain continues then you stay stopped. Sometimes the answer is let them get hurt by minor things, as long as it isn't s debilitating injury they will be fine. It just is hard to let a child get past that since it sucks to see a kid get hurt. Also if they do not know how to talk about pain it could be worse, they just don't know to say it.

  • Annette Learey

    I miss the red hair britt

  • SlimThrull

    @3:48 The look on that girl's face is nothing short of epic.

  • sdfkjgh


  • Cassie Oz

    Fascinating. How come the rest of the world (who didnt get the rewards) put their kids in car seats? "Don't put caustics/poisons in juice bottles" was pretty standard advice in 1950s when I was a kid, so why did someone have to do the study a few years ago?

  • Thanos oftitan

    I have yet to come across a correctly installed car seat. People seem to think, " I clicked a buckle and that means safe."

  • Harvir Sihota

    Bruh, by watching this channel I’m getting a A+ in my college psych class….😂

  • Rettequetette

    So… someone please explain to me why tide pods are still a thing.

  • Lilianne Weinhandl

    I totally agree with the "don't put dangerous fluids in old milk containers". My mother once put some vitamin B pills in an empty smarties box to give them to my grandmother so she could have some pills to try, but I was like 2 years old and I thought I found some nice chocolates. It was just disgusting (those pills are kinda bitter and just not what you expect if you think you're getting sweets) and not dangerous, but I still wasn't a happy little human after that experience 😀 .

  • Rick James


  • Rick James

    stupid kids die. Let Nature take its course.

  • RoundHouseDictator

    Did it work better to reward the children or the parents

  • Carsten Germer

    This sponsoring by snakeoil 'security' products really doesn't fit with SciShow*s scientific, competent and unbiased information. You are aware that you undermine your own competence and believability by being sponsored by crap like that?

  • Freeman Trash

    I would have loved a play ground like that as a kid

  • Zee Rivera

    just use some human treats. They love those.

  • Tamar Ziri

    Stickers save lives.

  • Dan McNeill

    On a totally unrelated issue, bailouts of banks definitely won't lead to even riskier investments in the future…

  • Nicolai Veliki

    Village kids rule supreme!

  • BrideofMurphnstein

    "It looks just like Skinny & Sweet!!"

  • S. Smith

    Let them break an arm while they can still heal quickly.

    Caution and common sense is learned through failure and injury, and since human nature is to worry of the unknown, kids will, as the phrase was meant, take baby steps to figure something out…
    Unless the parents own worry overshadows them into never 'walking'.

  • Patrick Lewis

    Thank you for referring to vehicular collisions as car "crashes." The colloquial use of "accident" makes the collision of a 2500-lb. cube of metal and plastic with anything else sound no worse than a stubbed toe.

  • Karian S. Breen

    Let's kids be kids. Who woulda thought!! 😀

  • Pixie Fairy

    The answer is always either more stickers, or wolves.

  • WWZenaDo

    I'm a little disappointed. I thought this episode was going to tackle the ugly issue of narcissistic parents who deliberately (but not consciously) do their worst to their own children, including "accidentally" killing them.

  • Atriya Koller

    Even adults can get in trouble when liquids aren't stored in their proper containers. My mum's colleague's husband came home one day, and he had some gasoline, so he put some of it into a sunflower seed oil bottle that was lying around. Somehow the bottle would up in the kitchen, where my mum's colleague saw it when she was going to cook dinner. So she poured it onto the frying pan… Gladly, there weren't major burns, but their kitchen was ruined.

  • Guy Boo

    I once found that my new shoes had come with a free prize: a sugar packet! Not being able to read, I assumed “DO NOT EAT” was a brand name. My mom’s first indication that anything was wrong was me waddling up with the empty “sugar” packet and asking her to check if it had gone bad.

  • Payton Pryor

    We need to use this positive feedback loop to somehow combat climate change. Like a tax credit for limiting your emissions.

  • kkg T

    Dumb kids will eventually die.

  • Self Elements

    3:23 Beautiful.

  • Blue Jedi

    I loved the Mr. Yuck Campaign.

  • Book Reader

    "Fall off" NOT "Fall off of" – it's ugly and makes no sense. Only one preposition is required. "Fall off".
    Use 'of' for Dukes of Hazard, third day of the week, Emperor of Japan. 'Off' does not need a further qualification and 'from' is good to use by itself too. "Take the book from the table". (Not 'from off' and certainly not 'from off of' – I mean why not throw 'up' in too – 'up from off of'.)

  • pay1370

    god i wish my uni would give me star stickers…

  • Vandrefalk

    Wait, you guys don't use car seats in the US? Wth?

  • Trina Safiya

    As an adult, I thought Fabuloso was juice when I saw it in a friend's bathroom. I wondered why it was in there them I read what it was. 🤦🏾‍♀️

  • infinitecanadian

    My parents put me and my sister in booster seats, thank goodness.

  • Valerie B

    Also, if our kids know we TRUST them to explore the environment by not constantly telling them to be careful then they learn to have faith in their ability to navigate the world.

    By telling them to be careful religiously then we are showing them we do not trust them. They know. Kids are A LOT smarter than we give them credit for.

  • Steve

    American's don't use booster seats for their kids? Why am I not surprised. Whole bloody country of idiots.

  • Gregory Skinner

    So, we have substantial evidence from over 30 years ago that making dangerous chemicals look like snacks is hazardous – and we have laundry pods designed to look like individually wrapped candy. Whats that legal term: "knew or should have known…"

  • ElvinGearMaster Irma

    Nothing helps a kid along in life like a little physical and emotional trauma, and an introduction the concept of pain and death

  • SuicideBunny6

    If I don't poison a child, do I also get a sticker then?

  • Nathan

    Awesome video my wife is giving birth to our 3 child in February. The first one was sheltered a little while the second not so much and she's a little daredevil i still cant teach the oldest a boy 13 years old to ride a bike. And i have tried so hard. Along with numerous other things.

  • UnnTHPS

    same thing can make legalization of all drugs work

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