The 'kids these days' effect: Why adults have criticized kids for millennia
When it comes to remembering the kids of your generation, don't always trust your memory.
- Since at least 624 BCE, adults have been complaining about the "kids these days."
- A recent study examined the "kids these days" effect, finding two broad mechanisms that seem to contribute to adults' negative perception of kids.
- Interestingly, adults seem to maintain their biases about the younger generations even when they're made aware of those biases.
Got a problem with the "kids these days?" If so, then you're one of the millions of adults across many cultures who have been criticizing kids for their supposedly worsening tastes and habits for millennia, since at least 624 BCE. Of course, not all of these generations can be right about their superiority. So, why do adults tend to denigrate the younger generations?
A recent paper published in Science Advances suggests two main reasons: It's easy for us to notice other people's shortcomings in areas in which we excel, and our memories of youth aren't always accurate.
In a suite of studies, the researchers asked a sample of Americans to rate themselves and today's kids in three measures: intelligence, respect for elders, and reading. The results first showed that when people give themselves a high rating in a certain trait, they're more likely to rate kids low for that same trait.
Excel and denigrate
The authors wrote: "Authoritarian people especially think youth are less respectful of their elders, intelligent people especially think youth are less intelligent, well-read people especially think youth enjoy reading less."
But this effect was trait-specific, meaning that a well-read adult wasn't necessarily more likely to also believe that kids were less respectful of their elders. The authors also noted that the tendency for intelligent adults to think today's kids are less intelligent was especially interesting, considering that average IQ scores have been going up for decades. However, on average, adults in the study believed that today's kids are about as smart as previous generations.
So, if excelling at something makes people more likely to think that today's kids are bad at it, why don't they apply that same bias to the kids of their own generation? The reason has to do with our biased memories, and the ways we project our current selves onto the past.
"Excelling on a dimension also leads people to project back to both themselves and their peers in the past, believing, for example, "because I like to read now everyone liked to read when I was a child," the researchers wrote.
With faulty memories, we tend to be more generous to kids of our own generation.
"We are imposing our current self on the past," John Protzko, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Barbara and coauthor of the paper, told Discover. "We're sort of idealizing kids of the past."
Correcting the bias
People seem to maintain their negative biases about today's kids even when they're made aware of these biases. But, interestingly, there does seem to be a way to soften bias among adults who don't mind their rose-tinted glasses: Gaslight them.
In one of the studies in the recent paper, the researchers asked adults to complete a test to see how well-read they were. But the participants were given false feedback: some were told they scored in the bottom third of the national population, some in the top third. After the participants were (falsely) told they scored low on the reading test, they were more likely to regard today's kids more favorably.
"These things aren't necessarily happening consciously," Protzko told Phys.org. "It's a memory tic—you take what you presently are and you impose that on your memories," he said, "It's why the 'decline' seems so obvious to us. We have little objective evidence about what children were like, and certainly no personal objective evidence. All we have is our memory to rely on, and the biases that come with it."
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
This is what the world will look like, 250 million years from now
To us humans, the shape and location of oceans and continents seems fixed. But that's only because our lives are so short.
The future of education and work will rely on teaching students deeper problem-solving skills.
- Asking kids 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' is a question that used to make sense, says Jaime Casap. But it not longer does; the nature of automation and artificial intelligence means future jobs are likely to shift and reform many times over.
- Instead, educators should foster a culture of problem solving. Ask children: What problem do you want to solve? And what talents or passions do you have that can be the avenues by which you solve it?
- "[T]he future of education starts on Monday and then Tuesday and then Wednesday and it's constant and consistent and it's always growing, always improving, and if we create that culture I think that would bring us a long way," Casap says.
These Jurassic predators resorted to cannibalism when hit with hard times, according to a deliciously rare discovery.
- Rare fossil evidence of dinosaur cannibalism among the Allosaurus has been discovered.
- Scientists analyzed dinosaur bones found in the Mygatt-Moore Quarry in western Colorado, paying special attention to bite marks that were present on 2,368 of the bones.
- It's likely that the predatory carnivore only ate their already-dead peers during times when resources were scarce.
As a doctor, I am reminded every day of the fragility of the human body, how closely mortality lurks just around the corner.