Smile timing

Fleur makes us work at times to get great smiles for photos. As she has gotten older, it seemed like she has gotten more crafty about getting more. Then I ran across this nugget of confirmation bias:

The research team found that by timing their smile precisely, babies can elicit maximum smiles with little effort on their part.

My wife fills up her phone trying to get the perfect smile because the toddler is manipulating the adults to get entertained enough to bestow upon us a photo worthy one.

Proud of her.

Being a Musician Is Good for the Brain

Highlights from an Inc article on the benefits of music on the brain caught my attention:

  1. Musical training reorganizes neuron structures in the brain, specifically the corpus callosum which integrates the two sides plus areas involving verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and literacy.
  2. It improves long-term memory, in part because it teaches the hippocampus how to store memories and recall them on demand.
  3. It improves executive function, things like processing and retaining information, controlling behavior, making decisions, and problem solving
  4. Musicians tend to be more mentally alert with faster reaction times.
  5. They tend to have better statistical use of multisensory information, so they are better able to integrate inputs from the various senses.
  6. The earlier a musician starts, the more drastic the changes.
  7. Music reduces stress and improves happiness.*
  8. Increases blood flow in the brain.

* Wonder if all this singing we do with Fleur plus Galahad’s piano practice is part of why she is a happy child? After all, we’ve been leveraging singing as a way to distract Miss Wriggly.

 

120 bits a day for native language acquisition

Some researchers at U. Rochester and U. Cal. Berkeley attempted to estimate how much information a child learns to acquire a native language.

To put our lower estimate in perspective, each day for 18 years a child must wake up and remember, perfectly and for the rest of their life, an amount of information equivalent to the information in this sequence:

0110100001101001011001000110010001100101
0110111001100001011000110110001101101111
0111001001100100011010010110111101101110

Even at the lower end, it suggests the presence of mechanisms in the brain that help in language acquisition. I guess a question I have is what is the threshold for there not to be one? (The upper end is almost 2,000 bits a day.)

And we are talking about every bit here being new information.  Similar to the Five Books a Day post, these are NEW bits every day.

The amounts are staggering to me. And it strikes me how impressively children learn about the world, categorize the data, and synthesize it into information. The challenge as a parent is to ensure the child gets enough exposure to acquire all this data.

Provoking cognitive dissonance

Galahad takes music lessons which happen to be on the other side of town. I usually have the radio on and when something provocative is said, I turn it off to talk with him about it. I ask him questions to suss out what he thinks about it.

Somehow the topic for this drive home was pi. I explained that some mathematicians prefer tau instead and described what it is. He mentioned that the pi(e) meme-mification meant that it had staying power. However, I realized he was stuck on the concept of a pie as dessert.

So, to mess with his concept of pie, I asked what he thought was in shepherd’s pie. That frustrated him a little bit but not enough in my estimation, so I brought up a pizza pie. This deprived child. Had. No. Knowledge. Of. Dessert. Pizzas. He was stuck on the disgustingness of apples and marinara.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

12181634454_3fddcbb3c9_zFinally, he defended his concept of a pie as only pastries. So, I got him to look up just what is a pastry. He doesn’t look past the first one, which he read as:

a dough of flour and water, used as a base and covering in baked dishes [1]

He seizes on the lack of mentioning sweets in this to decide that many things are pastries that he never before considered:

  • calzones and strombolis
  • ravioli

He immediately texted his friends and was obsessed with this for the rest of the evening.

I am glad to help him work through trying to hold these conflicting thoughts at the same time and poke at him to think more deeply about them.

[1] The one I saw is:

a dough of flour, shortening, and water, used as a base and covering in baked dishes such as pies

I don’t remember him mentioning the shortening item. Or fats or anything similar that would indicate he knew what that is. I don’t think he knows enough about cooking to make the distinction. If he did, then he would know calzones and raviolis do not have a shortening ingredient in the dough. So, they are not actually pastries.

P.S. Next, I need to work on his research skills. He will love the Pop-Tarts are ravioli debate.

Causation

fb_img_1552696891627Fleur has gleeful look when adults make weird sounds before doing something funny. Nose boops, tickles, and the like. She loves the stuff from people she likes. And doing it well, is a good way into her favorite people list.

Dopamine is thought of as the reward neurotransmitter. But, it is more complicated. It is what we get anticipating a reward. Say, you are playing a video game, dopamine surges to ensure you focus and persevere to achieve the level or match.

The noise right before tells her it is coming. Classical conditioning pairs a neutral stimulus with a desired one. The prior one is neutral the first time, but after she has paired it with the desired stimulus and anticipates the desired one. It seems like she enjoys the anticipation almost as much.

In getting mobile and manipulating objects, she is learning to use operant conditioning as well. She exerts her will on the world around her. This takes the form of doing the same thing over and over both using the same technique to confirm it works and adjusting to see what might work better. The other day she was trying to get into my tablet and tapping different spots to see how it reacted. You could see the Scientific Method in action: hypothesis, design test, execute test, evaluate result, new hypothesis.

Something I never thought about in university psychology classes was the impressive nature of linking things into causal chains. If this, then that. Over and over. Both forms of conditioning require understanding causation. The sponge that is Fleur’s brain seems to seek out understanding causation. And happiness to me is creating an environment for her try things and figure out how they work.

Storytelling as behavior modification

On how the Inuit control anger starting with young children.

Across the board, all the moms mention one golden rule: Don’t shout or yell at small children.

Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender. If you took all the parenting styles around the world and ranked them by their gentleness, the Inuit approach would likely rank near the top.

The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate, says Lisa Ipeelie, a radio producer and mom who grew up with 12 siblings. “When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice,” she says. “It will just make your own heart rate go up.”

Traditionally, the Inuit saw yelling at a small child as demeaning. It’s as if the adult is having a tantrum; it’s basically stooping to the level of the child.

Where the article gets really interesting is the use of storytelling. They have oral stories passed down ever generations that are designed to shape behavior to prevent bad behavior. So, instead of raising your voice, you seed their imagination that they are going to suffer if they do the bad thing and softly remind them about this potentiality. Or perform satire of the bad behavior to make the perpetrator of it appear childish.

I also love how this ties into the traditions of storytelling. I view blogging as the modern equivalent: a medium of passing along information for the social group. Bloggers are modern griots. A tribe’s storyteller holds a prized position in the group, which is due, I think, to how our brains are wired to better understand information in the form of a story.

Kid jokes

I love reading about the incongruity of the kids of friends. Part of why I started this is in hopes of reporting on the best of Fleur’s. The Atlantic has a good article “Knock Knock. Who’s There? Kids. Kids Who? Kids Tell Terrible Jokes.“:

“Even when their parents are feeding them ‘dad jokes’ to try to teach them about humor, half of the jokes that kids hear, they don’t quite get.” So it’s only natural, Dubinsky says, for some children to believe that a couple of absurd or mismatched concepts assembled into a familiar “knock-knock” or “What do you call …” structure adds up to a joke.

“Kids say, ‘Oh, jokes are about incongruity. I’ll show you some incongruity,’” Dubinsky says. “But they haven’t got the sophistication to construct an incongruity that’s going to be resolvable.”

Which, coincidentally, sometimes results in jokes that resemble a more advanced form of humor: an “anti-joke.” Anti-jokes deliberately deny the audience a clever or satisfying punch line, and they often serve as edgy or sophisticated commentary on jokes themselves.

Poor Fleur will suffer from “dad jokes.” She already hears them. She just has no idea she is inundated with them. And I love me some incongruity. So much of my attention is analyzing rules from social behavior to code to business process rules. I am always interested in the how and why to tease out mismatches to learn from them. Maybe that is why I love “dad jokes” so much?