Tag Archives: Children

Bilingualism predicts mathematical competence

7 Feb

An interesting paper, just published in Learning and Individual Differences. Here are the highlights:

• Using large-scale datasets, we examined the relation between bilingualism and math achievement.

• We found that bilingualism significantly predicted preschoolers’ math achievement.

• The positive predictability of bilingualism persisted from kindergarten through first grade.

• Bilingual advantages in executive functioning likely extend to mathematical achievement.

Psychology podcast on children’s imaginary friends

10 Jan

An InExact Science is a podcast sponsored by the Association for Psychological Science. I just listened to this episode about children’s imaginary friends and I highly recommend it.

Does praising children for being smart promotes cheating?

22 Sep

So says this paper just published in Psychological Science:

Praise is one of the most commonly used forms of reward. It is convenient, is nearly effortless, and makes the recipient feel good. However, praising children for being smart carries unintended consequences: It can undermine their achievement motivation in a way that praising their effort or performance does not (Cimpian, Arce, Markman, & Dweck, 2007; Kamins & Dweck, 1999; Mueller & Dweck, 1998; see Dweck, 2007). In this study, we investigated whether the negative consequences of praising children for being smart extend to the moral domain, by encouraging cheating.

There is some prior work suggesting that evaluative feedback can influence children’s moral behaviors (Fu, Heyman, Qian, Guo, & Lee, 2016; Mueller & Dweck, 1998; Zhao, Heyman, Chen, & Lee, 2017). Telling 5-year-olds (but not younger children) that they have a reputation for being good leads to a reduction in their cheating, presumably because they are interested in maintaining this reputation (Fu et al., 2016). We propose that telling children that they are smart, a form of ability praise, may have the opposite effect by motivating them to cheat to appear smarter. In a study consistent with this possibility, Mueller and Dweck (1998) found that 10-year-olds exaggerated how well they had performed after receiving ability praise. However, little is known about whether ability praise can influence young children’s moral behavior. The present research addressed this question by comparing the effects of ability and performance praise on preschool children’s cheating.

Do moral stories promote honesty in children?

8 Jul

When my kids were little I used to read to them a lot. As a parent you quickly discover there are two kinds of children’s literature, ones that the child prefers and the one’s that adults like. Great children’s literature appeals to both parents and child.

There is a category of books and stories that are supposed to impart values to the child. This study is the first I know of that investigates if these stories have an effect on behavior. The results are fascinating:

“The classic moral stories have been used extensively to teach children about the consequences of lying and the virtue of honesty. Despite their widespread use, there is no evidence whether these stories actually promote honesty in children. This study compared the effectiveness of four classic moral stories in promoting honesty in 3- to 7-year-olds. Surprisingly, the stories of “Pinocchio” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” failed to reduce lying in children. In contrast, the apocryphal story of “George Washington and the Cherry Tree” significantly increased truth telling. Further results suggest that the reason for the difference in honesty-promoting effectiveness between the “George Washington” story and the other stories was that the former emphasizes the positive consequences of honesty, whereas the latter focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty. When the “George Washington” story was altered to focus on the negative consequences of dishonesty, it too failed to promote honesty in children.”


Brain growth affected by poverty

23 Dec

An important paper by Hanson and colleagues examined MRI scans of 77 children as they grew from 5 months to four years of age.

As we can see in this chart, even though the children started with similar amounts of grey matter, there was a relationship between grey matter growth and socioeconomic status.


This is a significant paper and I would recommend that everyone interested in the education, and the well being, of our children take the time to read it. Here is the abstract:

Living in poverty places children at very high risk for problems across a variety of domains, including schooling, behavioral regulation, and health. Aspects of cognitive functioning, such as information processing, may underlie these kinds of problems. How might poverty affect the brain functions underlying these cognitive processes? Here, we address this question by observing and analyzing repeated measures of brain development of young children between five months and four years of age from economically diverse backgrounds (n = 77). In doing so, we have the opportunity to observe changes in brain growth as children begin to experience the effects of poverty. These children underwent MRI scanning, with subjects completing between 1 and 7 scans longitudinally. Two hundred and three MRI scans were divided into different tissue types using a novel image processing algorithm specifically designed to analyze brain data from young infants. Total gray, white, and cerebral (summation of total gray and white matter) volumes were examined along with volumes of the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes. Infants from low-income families had lower volumes of gray matter, tissue critical for processing of information and execution of actions. These differences were found for both the frontal and parietal lobes. No differences were detected in white matter, temporal lobe volumes, or occipital lobe volumes. In addition, differences in brain growth were found to vary with socioeconomic status (SES), with children from lower-income households having slower trajectories of growth during infancy and early childhood. Volumetric differences were associated with the emergence of disruptive behavioral problems.

England: Bedtime stories in decline

16 Sep

From the Guardian a disturbing story that claims that reading stories to children at bedtime is in decline in England:

“The survey also found that in previous generations, parents who read bedtime stories did so more regularly than their modern counterparts. Only 13% of respondents read a story to their children every night, but 75% recall being read to every night when they were kids. On average, today’s parents read bedtime stories to their children three times a week.

The findings are all the more surprising since 87% of those polled believe that bedtime reading is vital to children’s education and development.”

I wonder what a survey of North American parents would show?

As Risley and Hart have shown, children’s exposure to vocabulary has important long term consequences.

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