Many of these former children had their Christmas beliefs shattered around age 8, other studies suggest. A fascinating paper from 1978 found that 85 percent of 4-year-olds believed in Santa. Five percent didn’t, and 10 percent were still thinking about it. But only 25 percent of 8-year-olds believed in Santa, with 20 percent not believing and 55 percent transitioning in their beliefs. Funnily enough, 60 percent of these same 8-year-olds still believed in the tooth fairy.
This shift in belief from age 4 to 8 has some psychology behind it. The influential child psychologist Jean Piaget proposed that around age 8 children enter the “concrete operational stage” of thinking — a critical, observant phase of questioning impossible things. (To be clear, it is impossible for Santa to fly around the world and deliver toys to all the houses, even with the 48 hours he’d have thanks to the Earth’s time zones, and other time-warping assists. Physicists have looked into it.)