Friday, November 13, 2009

The effect of modernization on kids' cognitive abilities

Interesting study in Child Development showing that living a modern life changes the kinds of things the brain gets good at.
Using previously collected data from the late 1970s, the researchers looked at almost 200 children ages 3 to 9 in Belize, Kenya, Nepal, and American Samoa. When the data were collected, these four communities differed in the availability of resources that are typically associated with modernity, such as having writing tablets and books, electricity, a home-based water supply, a radio and TV set, and a car.
Children in communities with more modern resources performed better in some areas of cognitive functioning, such as certain types of memory and pattern recognition, and they took part in more complex sequences of play. The researchers note that these differences don't mean that children from more modern communities are more advanced intellectually; rather, the findings reflect the cognitive skills that are valued and promoted in the communities where the children live.
The researchers discuss this in terms of the Flynn effect, whereby IQ rises each generation and believe that it is due to increasing environmental complexity, which would also explain the current results.

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