“If you believe, wherever you are, clap your hands, and she’ll hear you. Clap! Clap! Don’t let Tink die! Clap!”
If you’ve seen any version of Peter Pan, or read the original J.M. Barrie book, you know that this exhortation yields a happy ending. Fervent belief, accompanied by vigorous clapping, brings a dying fairy called Tinker Bell back to life.
The idea that “enough belief in something will cause things to happen,” as TV Tropes puts it, has been enshrined in the social sciences as the Tinkerbell effect.
Disneyfied Tinker Bell, via Disneyclips. In stage productions of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell is represented by a darting light and a tinkling bell. The character’s name is spelled with two words, Tinker Bell: “Tinker” because she has tinkering skills, such as mending pots and pans; and “Bell” because of the sound of her speech, understandable only to other fairies.
The term was coined by a Swarthmore College psychology professor, Frank H. Durgin, in a 2002 paper about “the illusory perception of coherent motion in dynamic noise,” published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies. He titled the paper “The Tinkerbell Effect,” and gave this explanation: