Book: Brain Rules for Baby

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I loved the Brain Rules book. The original discussed why the brain works the way it does (including the studies) and gave specific activities one can do to boost the efficacy. An example: the brain is a major consumer of oxygen, so scientists have found that intense exercise improves function by getting more oxygenated blood to the brain.

I need to re-read it as it has been a decade. I recently got the baby one.

Some quotes:

Having a first child is like swallowing an intoxicating drink made of equal parts joy and terror, chased with a bucketful of transitions nobody ever tells you about.

This is 1,000% true.

As a scientist, I was very aware that watching a baby’s brain develop feels as if you have a front row seat to a biological Big Bang. The brain starts out as a single cell in the womb, quiet as a secret. Within a few weeks, it is pumping out nerve cells at an astonishing rate of 8,000 per second. Within a few months, it is on it’s way to becoming the world’s finest thinking machine.

Some notes I took.

  1. Perception begins at weeks for most senses. And memory persists after birth, but stimulation too early is harmful and later not going to make a genius.
  2. Everything is a balancing act. During pregnancy especially weight, nutrition, stress, exercise.
  3. Chronic or acute stress passes those hormones through the placenta and children seeing it stunt brain growth observing it. Husbands need to keep their wife not stressed. Happy is the ideal, but at least not stressed. This can be 8 IQ points.
  4. Exercise can reduce pushing time and reduce the time baby is without oxygen and reduce stunted brain development.
  5. Kinds of intelligence:
    1. Record information, aka crystallized intelligence.
    2. Improvisation
    3. Desire to explore
    4. Self-control
    5. Creativity
    6. Verbal communication
    7. Decoding nonverbal communication
  6. Ingredients for happy kids:
    1. a demanding but warm parenting style ( responsiveness & demandingness)
    2. comfort with your own emotions
    3. tracking your child’s emotions (don’t ignore & don’t helicopter)
    4. verbalizing emotions (describe emotions)
    5. running toward emotions (emotions are reflexive; behavior is a choice; be consistent with rules on behavior; turn intense feelings into teachable moments)
    6. two tons of empathy
  7. Behavior modification basic principles.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. The thing I liked the most about the original was he named a rule and went on about why it is important and the research justifying it. This book lacked that simplistic and novel model, which put me off.

 

 

Study: Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response

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This caught my eye because I’ve read about the growth mindset often over the past several years. And, I feel that how I responded to stress in my professional life is responsible for my achievements.

Study 1: I found the use of the invention of a Work Performance Scale adapted from a Role-Based Performance Scale interesting. I’d like to compare the two. But, offhand, it is self-reporting, which I dislike for the tendency of the taker to say what they think is wanted not what they think. (And even if they put they think, our view of ourselves is skewed from inner dialogue biases and justifications.) They decided the data shows that stress mindset is a distinct variable among others already determined for stress. They probably overly generalize to health and well-being when their measure was just on work performance.

This additional variable thing seems to trigger warning bells about confirmation bias in my head. It strongly confirms my existing worldview in that I’ve seen people who take on challenges head-on and others who squander the opportunity.

I just skimmed the rest from here. Study 2 appears to try to determine if it works similar to growth-fixed mindsets. Study 3 appears to look at positive and negative feedback with stress mindsets.

Crum, AJ and Salovey, P and Achor, S. “Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2013, Vol. 104, No. 4, 716 –733. DOI: 10.1037/a0031201

Study: Does the name say it all? Investigating phoneme-personality sound symbolism in first names.

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This caught my interest as having a non-cultural name, it stands out. My racial background stands out. In naming Fleur, we wanted something that stood out but wasn’t so strange as to be offputting.

We use a variety of techniques to make sounds that are used to comprise noises. A sonorant has a continuous free-flow tone and is like a vowel or /m/ or /l/ -like sound.

Apparently, certain sounds are associated with certain kinds of things called “sound symbolism.” This is interesting because maybe certain things have certain names not because the name has been passed down through generations but because our brain gravitates to the sounds for the name.

This paper is a look at associations related to phonemes and first names and personality. This sounds kind of astrological to me. The good news they are using Big Five + Honesty-Humility not MBTI.

  1. Participants chose a name containing sonorant or voiceless stops for specific personality traits. Given the this or that, it reveals leanings of a forced binary choice, one of the failings of MBTI. There is no option for a neutral feeling, which might be the most likely choice. Names with sonorants were judged to belong to people who are higher on Emotionality, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness.
  2. In the next experiment, they presented a single name at a time and used a Likert scale to measure the responses. The effect was still present.
  3. In the third experiment, they had people take the HEXACO personality test, then compared to the phonetic transcription of their name. They didn’t find much of a relationship.
  4. They moved sounds around to make up names. This eliminates the possible associations with real people as a possible confound. The effect persisted only now Honesty-Humility showed up as higher and Extraversion lower.
  5. In the final experiment, they were looking to remove likability as a confound.

Sidhu, D. M., Deschamps, K., Bourdage, J. S., & Pexman, P. M. (2019). Does the name say it all? Investigating phoneme-personality sound symbolism in first names. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148(9), 1595-1614 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000662

Study: Scholarly culture: How books in adolescence enhance adult literacy, numeracy and technology skills in 31 societies

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Scholarly culture theory highlights book-oriented socialization, indicated by adolescents’ home library size, as a source of cognitive competencies, skills and knowledge that are valued not only in formal education but also by employers in different places and historical periods. Scholarly culture does not comprise arbitrary cultural signals that identify elite members and earmark them for privileged positions in society: it enhances performance and as such it is valued in various historical circumstances and by modest families as well as the elite.

Growing up, I was surrounded by books. My mother had well over a thousand. As did I by the time I graduated high school. We also spent time at the public, K-12 school, and university libraries. Naturally, my first job was in a library. And, it is only a quirk of luck that I am not a librarian instead of a technologist. Well, an automation librarian. Fleur already has over a couple hundred books.

The study specifically has adults reach back into their memory and recall how many books they had. I worry about this kind of self-reporting because people use books as status symbol might inflate the number.

But, books in the home (as recalled from memory) as an adolescent, the level of literacy, numeracy, and technology skills grew up until about 350. Beyond that, there were not great gains. This seems like another of those Goldilocks things were there is great effect but only to a point. The gains are best from a handful to 80 but still good up until about 350.

In the cohort, people who were between 25 and 65 years of age between 2011 and 2015, grew up with hardly any books, and managed to finish only lower secondary school (9 years) typically performed in the literacy test at about −0.55 of a standard deviation below the mean. Their counterparts with university degrees had roughly average literacy levels (0.00). The same level of literacy was achieved by people who were surrounded by many books in adolescence but whose schooling ended in Year 9 (0.02). So, literacy-wise, bookish adolescence makes up for a good deal of educational advantage.

The effects are seen across culturally diverse countries.

I wonder though, if a robust library system affects how many books a household might have? I feel like we were an aberration for both having thousands of books and spending lots of time in libraries. Perhaps countries or even cities with easy access to books in libraries mean families invest less in personal collections but yet still adhere to scholarly culture?

But, my confirmation bias is excited about this study as it means my intention to surround Fleur with books, read with her, and foster a love of books & research is on the right track.

Got to this study by reading the Smithsonian’s Growing Up Surrounded by Books Could Have Powerful, Lasting Effect on the Mind.

Joanna SikoraM. D. R. EvansJonathan Kelley. (2019). Scholarly culture: How books in adolescence enhance adult literacy, numeracy and technology skills in 31 societies. Social Science Research, Volume 77, January 2019, Pages 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2018.10.003

Reviews

2142254192_918aaba0da_mI’ve been posting about studies but increasingly becoming uncomfortable about how I went about it. See, in calling this blog Polymath Parent, I am signalling my appreciation for science. And, while I am posting about scientific ideas around neuroscience and child development, I am often pulling from popular science sources that are not particularly rigorous or nuanced.

I did that with Defiance of parental authority leads to success? but not with The parenting happiness gap.

My intention is to do more looking at the actual studies and posting on what I read in them which is more nuanced than what other blogs are posting. I will post this as “Study Saturday” posts. Look for the first this weekend.

Also, to make it clearer which are my just posting about a blog/news post vs the actual study, the title will be pre-pended with “Study:” and end with the citation to the study I read. Book reviews will be pre-pended with “Book:”. And they will go in a Reviews category.