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January 2011



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ScienceDaily (Feb. 23, 2010) — Children don’t trust other children when it comes to learning a new game and will turn to adults for to learn the rules instead. This is the finding of a study published online Feb. 22 in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.

The study was carried out by Dr Hannes Rakoczy from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, who tested 44 children aged three and four. The children were shown a video of an invented game called ‘daxing’, in which either a boy or a man argued over the correct way to ‘dax’. The child was then asked to ‘dax’, and the method they chose to use was recorded. Children were also shown a puppet, who said it was his time to ‘dax’. The puppet performed ‘daxing’ either in the way the boy in the film or the man in the film did it, and the children’s reactions were recorded.

The researchers found that the children imitated the adult’s method of ‘daxing’ significantly more often than they imitated the boy’s method. Children were also more likely to intervene when the puppet performed ‘daxing’ using the boy’s method — protesting that the puppet was ‘daxing’ wrongly.

Dr Rakoczy said: “The results from our study suggest that children prefer to learn from adults rather than other children when it comes to rule-governed activities like learning a new game. They also expect other people to learn and perform actions in the way that the adults do, demonstrated by the expectation that the puppet would also follow the adult actor’s actions and not the boy’s.”

“These findings tell us that young children will accept adult’s behaviour as being right, and that adults behaviour should be followed. This could have implications for wider social learning of both good and bad behaviour.”

Story Source:

Adapted from materials provided by British Psychological Society (BPS).



The Child Brain and the Playing Teacher

February 22, 2010 | By Simi Agarwal, DDS

Scientific research has established that the major part of the development of human brain happens in a child’s first three years of life. These first three years of pre-school life is the most impressionable period of human brain during which new neural networks are being formed in certain parts of the brain. A child who is one year old has the maximum number of brain cells the human brain can have in its entire life span. Neurobiologists believe that about 10 billion nerve cells in the infant brain are constantly making the synapses that promote thought, emotion, and physical movement. The capacity to form such neural connections depends on whether the infant brain receives proper stimulation.

Sensory stimulation such as listening to speech or watching colors or emotional stimulation by getting hugs or eye contact can change the physiological development of infant brain by changing the quality and quantity of the electrical wiring between brain cells. This promotes the growth of dendrites in the brain making stronger and richer neural connections.

Read More …  http://brainblogger.com/2010/02/22/the-child-brain-and-the-playing-teacher/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+GNIFBrainBlogger+%28Brain+Blogger%29

At what age do children recognise the difference between sarcasm and irony?

People hold strong feelings about the meanings of irony and sarcasm. Just look at the reaction to Alanis Morissette’s global hit ‘ironic’ – despite commercial success, the apparent misunderstanding of irony conveyed by the song provoked a chorus of derision (at least everyone agreed that this state of affairs was ironic). So I’d say it’s with some courage that Melanie Glenwright and Penny Pexman have chosen to investigate the tricky issue of when exactly children learn the distinction between sarcasm and irony. Their finding is that nine- to ten-year-olds can tell the difference, although they can’t yet explicitly explain it. Four- to five-year-olds, by contrast, understand that sarcasm and irony are non-literal forms of language, but they can’t tell the difference between the two.

So that we’re all on the same page, here’s what Glenwright and Pexman recognise as the distinction between sarcasm and irony. In both cases the speaker says the opposite of what they mean, but whereas an ironic statement is aimed at a situation, a sarcastic remark is aimed at a person and is therefore more cutting.

Glenwright and Pexman presented five- to six-year-olds and nine- to ten-year-olds with puppet show scenarios that ended with one of the characters making a critical remark. This remark could be literal, aimed at a person or situation, or it could non-literal, again aimed either at a person (i.e. sarcastic) or situation (i.e. ironic). To illustrate: two puppets are playing on a trampoline, one falls on his face. ‘Great trampoline tricks,’ the other character says, sarcastically. Contrast this with two puppets playing on a saggy trampoline with little bounce. One of them says ‘great trampoline’, an ironic remark.

To gauge the children’s depth of understanding, the researchers asked them to rate how mean the utterances were (using a sliding scale of smiley to miserable faces) and asked them which character they most identified with – the idea being that in instances of sarcasm they would, out of sympathy, identify more with the target of that sarcasm.

The children’s responses showed that both age groups recognised the non-literal utterances as intending to mean the opposite of what was said. However, only the older age group showed a sensitivity to the difference between irony and sarcasm. They, but not the younger children, rated sarcastic utterances as meaner and were more likely to identify with the target of sarcasm, presumably out of sympathy. The older children’s comprehension was not complete, though. In open-ended questioning they were unable to explain their differential response to sarcasm and irony.

‘By nine to ten years of age, children’s sensitivity to the distinction between sarcasm and verbal irony highlights their impressive understanding of how people’s feelings are affected by others’ speech …’ the researchers said. ‘We investigated one distinction here, but there are other non-literal forms that should be examined, such as understatement and hyperbole.’

Glenwright M, & Pexman PM (2010). Development of children’s ability to distinguish sarcasm and verbal irony*. Journal of child language, 37 (2), 429-51 PMID: 19523264

Source:  http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2010/02/at-what-age-do-children-recognise.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BpsResearchDigest+%28BPS+Research+Digest%29


Parents Still Major Influence on Child’s Decision to Pursue Science Careers

ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2010) — Parental influence and access to mathematics courses are likely to guide students to careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics or medicine (STEMM), according to research from Michigan State University.

The findings of Jon Miller, MSU Hannah Professor of Integrative Studies, and colleagues were presented at a symposium titled “Tomorrow’s Scientists and Engineers.” at this year’s meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The education of more researchers, engineers and others in the field of science is critical, said Miller.

“Failure to build and maintain a competitive scientific workforce in the decades ahead,” Miller said, “will inevitably lead to a decline in the American standard of living.”

Miller used data from the Longitudinal Study of American Youth, which kept track of nearly 6,000 students from middle school through college, attempting to determine what led them to or guided them away from STEMM careers.

According to Miller, “The pathway to a STEMM career begins at home.” He said this is especially true in families in which children were strongly encouraged to go to college.

“Only four percent of students who experienced low parent encouragement to attend college planned to enter a post-secondary program and major in a STEMM field,” he said. “This compares to 41 percent of students whose parents strongly encouraged college attendance.”

The research also found that sons were slightly more encouraged than daughters to do well in science and math.

Also influential, although not on the same level as parental encouragement, is the parents’ education level. The research found that approximately 27 percent of the children of college graduates planned to major in a STEMM field, compared to 18 percent of parents with a high school diploma.

The research also reinforced the role mathematics plays in the pursuit of a STEMM career.

“Mathematics is a primary gateway to a STEMM career,” Miller said, “beginning with algebra track placement in grades seven and eight, and continuing through high school and college calculus courses.”

The researchers said high school and college science courses have “small, positive effects” on a student’s decision to pursue a STEMM career, but is not at the level of mathematics.

Story Source:

Adapted from materials provided by Michigan State University.



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