The Recency Effect in children

When Fleur is done with dinner, she often exerts her displeasure at not having food in front of her. Such bad parents that we did not ensure she has just the right amount of food. Basically, if she has more than she wants to eat of something, then she throws it on the floor.

My wife often just gives something else. I prefer to provide options between two different kinds of food. So, this finding that children have a preference for the Recency Effect caught my eye.

Suspecting she might be picking left or right, the first several times I did switch them to see if she picked the same one. (She did.) My goal was to better understand her preferences.

Now, I know I need to design my choices for whether she is picking the second choice being a victim of this bias. Of course, she is not having to overburden her working memory capacity in these decisions. So, it probably does not apply.

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.

 

Doing > Being

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“Charles A.Lindbergh Perfusion Pump | Science Museum Group Collection” is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA NULL

Having a love of science, I naturally was interested in the pipeline from starting to learn to becoming a scientist. Fleur has a couple strikes against her in the current environment in that she is not white and female. We are a long way from getting there, but of course, I am interested in foundation work now. The framing nudge described below is interesting. I think it probably applies to many different kinds of interests. People who conceive of themselves as capable of doing the work are more likely to have an interest in doing it than those who think of themselves as budding members of the job.

Ryan Lei and colleagues recruited 212 children in 2nd and 3rd grade (about 7-9 years old) at two diverse publicly funded schools in New York City. The kids were randomly assigned to one of two groups: one group always received “identity-focused” language about science (that implied that scientists are a specific category of people), while the other always received “action-focused” language (that implied science is an activity that anyone can do).

For instance, at the beginning of the study the kids saw a video that introduced them to the scientific process. For the identity-focused group, the narrator of the video used phrases like “scientists make thoughtful guesses to help them learn about the world”. The action-focused group, on the other hand, heard language like “when people do science, they make thoughtful guesses to help them learn about the world”.

At three points across the academic year, the children answered questions measuring their attitudes towards science, including their levels of interest (either how much they wanted to “be a scientist” or “do science”, depending on the group they were in), and how good they thought they’d be (either at “being a scientist” or “doing science”). At the second and third testing points, they were also asked to judge how many parents of other children at school “were scientists” or “did science”.

Overall, the children in the action-focused group had a greater interest in “doing science” than those in the identity-focussed group had in “being a scientist”. The action-focused group also rated themselves higher in their scientific abilities, and they thought that more adults “did science” compared with how many people the identity group thought “were scientists”.

Loss of possession is 9/10ths of the screaming

“Mine” is not yet in the vocabulary, but surely it will enter it soon. Taking things Fleur has in her hands upsets her. So. Very. Much.

  • Her sippy cup
  • Her Whiffleball flail
  • Her puff or melt container
  • Food we missed getting up off the floor after a meal
closeup photo of black and green foosball table

Photo by Soumya Ranjan on Pexels.com

Humans have a well developed and easy to exploit sense of loss aversion. (Kahneman and Tversky) We experience far more pain when losing something than the pleasure we experience from gaining. The gambler who “feels” their luck is about to change for the better, is experienced severe pain and relies on the hope of restoration to relieve it by winning back enough to not be down.

At her age, we find it more effective to give Fleur something she enjoys to occupy both hands which necessitates letting go of the something we want to take.

No all the time am I consistent about this. This morning she found an M&M someone had left on the floor. When I asked, “What did you find?” She speed-toddled away from me. The room was gated up, so she could not go far, but she got as far as she could as fast as she could. I was so proud that she knew I was coming to take it and made the choice to hold on to it as long as possible.

Five Books a Day

Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to, a new study found.

This makes sense to me. Keep in mind this is a number over what kids whose parents do not regularly read to them. The more one reads the more exposure. More exposure improves vocabulary by tuning the brain in this critical period to the acquisition of it.

At these volumes, variety is needed to maintain novelty and stimulation. That means a personal library probably is not going to cut it unless you are wealthy. Fleur has a couple hundred books already. I expect her to have a healthy library. But, we will need to supplement with the library or hanging out in a bookstore.

Libraries also have programs for encouraging reading. A thousand books seem to be the target for the programs I see. But, I think that is the kid reading not being read to.

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.