Lego's Minifigures with Angry Faces can Affect Children's Healthy Development: Report

Lego toy's minifigures with happy faces have started slowly disappearing from the markets recently and are being largely replaced by minifigures with angry faces. According to new research, the angry expression on the faces of Lego toys can leave a negative impact on the development of children.

To analyze the recent trend in Lego toys, researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand led by Dr. Christoph Bartneck looked at 6,000 Lego minifigures available in the market. He noticed that Lego was using more "conflict based play themes" in the recent years and introducing many new faces with different expressions since the 1990s, most common of them being happiness and anger. According to Bartneck, the sudden shift from the positive faces to negative can leave a lasting impact on children.

"It is important to study how to create appropriate expressions and how these expressions are perceived by the users.  Children's toys and how they are perceived can have a significant impact on children,'' Dr. Bartneck said in a University news release. "We cannot help but wonder how the move from only positive faces to an increasing number of negative faces impacts ON how children play."

Concerned with the findings, researchers urged the toy makers to take extra precautions while introducing expressions in their toys. "The example of the mini-figures show that to appeal to users it is necessary to offer a wide range of emotional expressions for today's users. Instead of focusing on realistic expressions, it may be worthwhile to increase the variability of expressions. A comic style expression is sufficient to convey a full spectrum of emotions and intensities,'' Dr. Bartneck, who is the HIT Lab Acting Director at UC, explained.

The study will be presented at the First International Conference on Human-Agent Interaction in Sapporo, Japan, in August.

According to experts, children get many messages during their play time, so selection of the right toy is crucial for ensuring their healthy development.  Toys play an important role in boosting a child's fundamental skills and help in improving the children's mental, physical, emotional and social skills. So parents should be careful in selecting toys that help in a meaningful learning, which promote the idea of cooperation rather than competition and winning.

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