Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Start 'em Young

This story, published on the BPS Research Digest blog today, talks about a recent longitudinal study done with young children. It seems that the more often parents use mental-content words like "thinking" or "believing" while reading to their young kids, the more well developed theory of mind the child ends up with. In other words, it seems that parents "prime" a theory of mind in kids by getting them used to considering the mental states of others. This is interesting on a number of levels. Perhaps primarily, it suggests that genetics might not play as exclusive a role in theory of mind development (or cognitive development in general) as many people think. Additionally, it even more strongly demonstrates the vital importance of beginning education at a very young age. A young child's brain is incredibly plastic, and it is well known that the more used to using his or her brain a child is, the more likely he or she is to continue using it throughout life. If even something as basic as a theory of mind is influenced by early childhood interactions, imagine what else is based on the strength (or weakness) of those same interactions.

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