Mind Matters — Neural Nuggets for Noshing

These nuggets are gleaned from the column, “In Brief,” published in the APA (American Psychological Association) Monitor—only I make them even more brief for your quick consumption.

Amy Novotney and Lea Winerman distill psychological journal articles and summarize what might be most salient. Here are some of their reports of recent research.

Consider the findings of University of Washington psychologists who found that “babies make quick judgments about adults’ anger and adjust their behavior accordingly.” Fifteen-month olds, while sitting on their parents’ laps, watched as researchers showed them how to play with toys. Meanwhile, another researcher “reacted” to this demonstration either neutrally, saying, “that’s entertaining,” or acted negatively, saying sternly, “that’s aggravating!” After this, the researcher observed how readily the babies played with their toys. Those who witnessed the angry outburst were less likely to play with the toys than those who experienced the neutral response. Take heed adults: how you behave does indeed affect little ones! What might we hypothesize about young babies and children who witness angry outbursts on a continual basis?

Another study regarding the young found that those children exposed to air pollution even in the womb were more susceptible to delayed social and emotional development. The Columbia University researchers determined the amount of the common pollutant found in car emissions, coal burning, and tobacco smoke in the blood samples of 462 pregnant women. In their longitudinal individual study, they assessed the children of these mothers at ages 3, 7, 9, and 11. It was found that the children of the mothers who tested for high levels of the pollutant during pregnancy, displayed “delayed development of emotional self-regulation and social competence.” So, if air pollution is detrimental even to the unborn, what kind of priority can we make for cleaner air?

Another study, done by American University researchers, found that non-black teachers have lower expectations of their black students than do black teachers. It was found that the subtle biases of teachers can become self-fulfilling prophecies for their students.

Another study of youth, done by a researcher at the University of Warwick, England, found that adolescents who participated in cultural activities with their parents were more likely to pursue higher education than those who did not partake in such activities. In an analysis of responses from ten thousand teens, it was noted that even compared to youth who attended homework clubs or participated in extracurricular activities, those who went with their parents to museums, galleries and concerts were more motivated to go on to college. Another nugget for parents to nosh?

Look for the next Mind Matters column where the topic will also be a parental theme, but with a different tack: the societal shaming of parents!