A team of Danish researchers decided to undertake a Christmas study to find out what people thought of doctors, and—wait for it--how that compared to their feelings for “another socially significant archetype, Santa Claus. . . "
The researchers assembled a group of 52 randomly chosen participants and showed them a film in which a narrator dressed as either Santa Claus or a doctor told an identical story. Then the participants were interviewed so that their feelings about the narrators—specifically their perceptions of reliability and kindness--could be evaluated.
The results: Santa Claus was perceived as friendlier than the doctor, “but there was no significant difference in the perception of reliability between Santa Claus and the doctor.”
Even the researchers seemed a bit taken aback by their results, which they summarized in their abstract as: “Surprisingly, and despite him being an imaginary person, Santa Claus was assessed as being as reliable as the doctor.”
If you think this sounds like a Christmas tale, check it out for yourself. The study is listed in PubMed, with the ID number 24629466.