Let noted cognitive psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker introduce you to psychology.
Steven Pinker, the noted Canadian-American cognitive psychologist and linguist, is offering lectures from his spring Harvard psych course for free online. If you ever wanted to get into psychology, now is your chance, as Pinker has already shared the introductory lecture via his Twitter.
The course is titled "Psy 1 - Introduction to Psychological Science" and as its description states, it has been redesigned in 2021 as a survey of "the scientific study of human psychology." It will introduce students to such subjects as perception, consciousness, and cognition, as well as how to we make decisions that drive our social behavior, what are emotions, motivations, and psychopathology. Adapted for online learning, students will be watching recorded lectures on their own time, while contact with the professor will take place twice a week. You'd have to be taking the course at Harvard to participate in these sessions of asking questions and diving deeper into the material with Professor Pinker.
Obviously, assignments and tests are also not available unless you're a student, but the great knowledge from a world-renowned expert is definitely there.
Recognized as an important thinker, Steven Pinker is known for a variety of contributions across scientific fields and as a popular author on language, mind, and human nature.
His research on vision, social relations, and language has won a plethora of prizes from the National Academy of Sciences, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, the American Psychological Association, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, and other institutions. He has eight honorary doctorates, teaching awards from MIT and Harvard, and many prizes for his books like "The Better Angels of our Nature".
Steven Pinker: Linguistics as a Window to Understanding the Brain
Pinker's current research looks at the role of common knowledge in language and social phenomena, studying trends in violence, psycholinguistics of writing, the neurobiology as well as genetics of language and more.
Spending time in green spaces seems to yield many health benefits, most of which researchers are only beginning to understand.
- The longitudinal study examined the development of pairs of twins growing up in various parts of Belgium.
- The results revealed a positive relationship between growing up near greener spaces and having a higher IQ.
- The differences were especially significant on the lower end of the intelligence spectrum, suggesting that policy changes could make a significant difference in intellectual development.
The United Nations projects that 68 percent of the world's population will live in cities by 2050. That has some researchers worried. After all, studies show that urbanites are more likely to have psychiatric disorders, lower happiness, sleep problems, and cardiovascular and respiratory problems due to pollution, to name a few issues.
One key factor that distinguishes urban from suburban and rural environments is green space. Studies show that spending time outdoors in green spaces can decrease conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression, and also boost performance on tests related to cognitive performance and attention span.
A new study suggests that growing up in environments with more green space — even urban environments with parks — may boost intelligence and lower problematic behavior.
Intelligence is shown in association with green space in a 3,000-m radius around the current residence in twins living in an urban (n = 232), suburban (n = 126), and a rural area (n = 254)
In the study, published in PLoS Medicine, researchers examined the development of 310 pairs of twins between the ages 10 and 15 living in Belgium. Using satellite imagery, the researchers measured the amount of green spaces near the homes of the twins, which were located in rural, suburban, or urban environments. The researchers then compared the proximity to green spaces with intelligence, and also adjusted for factors like sex, age, and neighborhood household income.
The results revealed a significant positive correlation: An increase of 3.6 percent in green space was associated with an IQ boost of 2.6 points, and a decrease of 2 points on the Achenbach Child Behavior Checklist, which measures behavioral problems.
What's more, children raised in low-green environments were more likely to have an IQ below 80. Similarly, while 11.9 percent of kids raised in a green environment had an IQ in the superior range, only 4.2 percent of kids raised in low-green environments tested in this range.
🌱 Did you know that spending time outdoors can have a wide range of health benefits, like building your immune syst… https://t.co/ME4t7XJmnr— Queensland Health (@Queensland Health)1594596631.0
It's not completely clear what explains these findings, but the study notes that previous research has revealed:
- Relationships between noise and air pollution and diminished cognitive development
- Green spaces can promote physical activity and stress reduction
- City parks may also promote social connection
To be sure, the study only established a statistically significant correlation—it didn't conclude that a lack of green space causes lowered intelligence in children. Still, the researchers said their findings contribute to the growing body of research on the health risks of city living, and how green spaces factor into the mix.
"There is more and more evidence that green surroundings are associated with our cognitive function, such as memory skills and attention," Tim Nawrot, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Hasselt University in Belgium, told The Guardian.
"What this study adds with IQ is a harder, well-established clinical measure. I think city builders or urban planners should prioritise investment in green spaces because it is really of value to create an optimal environment for children to develop their full potential."
Early reading experiences play an important role in brain development.
- Recent studies have shown that children who grow up with books at home have increased literacy, numeracy, and information communication technology skills in adulthood.
- Bookstores and libraries are great, but according to researchers, early exposure at the parental home matters because "books are an integral part of routines and practices that enhance lifelong cognitive competencies."
- While age doesn't necessarily dictate reading level, here are titles suitable for children from a few months old up to 17 years.
When you're making small talk with friends old and new, they typically ask questions that involve your reading habits. People are often curious about the last book you read, what you're currently reading, and what titles are waiting in a neat little stack in your living room. Rarely does anyone ask what the first book you remember loving was, or what books from your childhood had the biggest impact on you, but it turns out that those early reading experiences are just as (if not more) important when it comes to your brain's development.
According to a 2018 study that involved 160,000 people, growing up with a home library of 80-350 books (the average in the U.S. is 114) results in adults with significantly higher levels of literacy, numeracy, and information communication technology (ICT) skills. Studies have also shown that reading increases white matter in the brain (boosting system-wide communication), and children who are read to regularly are less likely to be hyperactive and disruptive.
Libraries and publishers often give the option to sort books by age range, but not everyone progresses at the same pace. Those guidelines, and the distinctions made in this article, are generalizations and are meant to be flexible. That being said, here are some popular, best-selling, and well-reviewed books for the young reader on your shopping list.
Written and illustrated by John Stepsoe, this board book tells the story of a baby who wants nothing more than to play with his big brother.
"This is Baby" is Jimmy Fallon's third children's book. With illustrations of diverse babies by Miguel Ordóñez, it helps teach your little one how to find various body parts from their head to their toes.
The earlier children are exposed to a new language, the better. This bilingual board book, written by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by David Catrow, is a story of positive self-esteem that the Amazon synopsis says is "high on energy and imagination." Fatherly.com recently listed it among their top 16 books for two-year-olds.
A timeless classic by Maurice Sendak that most of us read growing up. If you don't own this one, now may be the time to add it to the collection.
The book that inspired an Oscar-winning animated short, "Hair Love" is written by Matthew Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. It tells the story of a father who has to learn a difficult new skill: how to style his young daughter's long and curly hair.
Dr. Seuss books are great for their re-readability, rhyme schemes, and unique art style. Children are looking for books that they can grab and read alone or with a parent at this age, so having this collection of five will give them some variety.
We would absolutely recommend the cartoon if we could, but "The Magic School Bus" as a book series is also really fun for children. This particular book touches on a subject that we especially love: space exploration.
The number one best seller in Amazon's "Children's Mystery and Detective Comics & Graphic Novels" section, this Dan Pilkey book is the fourth in the series, which you should consider collecting so that your 3rd grader can experience it all.
Another classic novel that most readers are probably familiar with (and one that comes with various adaptations), "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was written by Roald Dahl and first published in 1964. A cool bonus exercise could be reading the book then watching the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder to see how they compare and contrast.
The beauty of buying the full Harry Potter set is that your child can grow along with the characters. The books get progressively longer and there are some pretty mature themes in the later installments, but your pre-teen will have time to build up to those.
Learning about history and politics is a lot more fun and engaging for children when it's in the form of graphic nonfiction. This biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Whitney Gardner.
Written by Kelly Barnhill, this fantasy story focuses on a girl named Luna who is raised by a witch and accidentally given magic powers, which she must learn to control. In a review for The New York Times, Diana Wagman wrote that the book "educates about oppression, blind allegiance and challenging the status quo while immersing the reader in an exhilarating story full of magical creatures and derring-do."
The subject matter in Mildred D. Taylor's "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" is by no means light and whimsical, so you'll want to consider whether or not your 7th grader is ready for it. Set in Mississippi in the 1930s, the book deals with racism, social injustice, and violence, but also family, love, and perseverance.
Katharine McGee's novel tells the story of an alternate America where there is a wealthy, drama-filled royal family. If your teenager is into celebrity culture and all that comes with it, then they should give this a read.
This YA fantasy novel is the first in a trilogy written by Shelby Mahurin. There are witches, witch hunters, forbidden love, and humor to be had in the 528 pages of the book, which debuted at number two on the NY Times bestseller list and was chosen as Barnes and Noble's YA Book Club selection in 2019.
Described as a disturbing tale of a dystopian world where men rule and women have no civil rights, this 1985 book has gained popularity in recent years thanks to the hit television show of the same name. Author Margaret Atwood served as a consulting producer on the show, which means a lot of this multiple award-winning book's power has been translated onto the screen.
Emily M. Danforth's coming-of-age novel from 2012 is about a young girl in Montana who, upon discovering her homosexuality, is sent to a conversion camp by her conservative guardians. While the character in the book is younger (12 years old), parents and kids seem to agree that the mature themes are best appreciated by slightly older readers.
A new study finds that naps bring cognitive benefits.
- Researchers find that daytime naps help your brain deal with unconscious information.
- A short sleep can improve brain processing speed.
- Scientists looked at how subjects performed on tasks they were not consciously aware of.
Maybe you knew this already, but daytime naps are good for you. But why exactly? A new study that measured changes in people's brains before and after naps found that there are clear cognitive benefits to sleeping on it. A nap can help with how we process and react to information.
Researchers from the University of Bristol in the U.K discovered that even a short period of sleep allows our brains to interpret unconscious information that is not part of our usual awareness.
For the study, the scientists recruited sixteen participants of varying ages. Since prior research established that sleep helps problem solving, the researchers probed whether a conscious mental process is necessary before or during sleep to help with that.
In the experiments, the participants were shown information very briefly, effectively "masking" it to avoid conscious perception. But this information, which consisted of specially-chosen words, was processed subliminally in the brain, allowing the scientists to zero in on whether this hidden knowledge interferes with consciously perceived info.
The participants carried out their main task – the masked prime task – and a control task, where they had to react if they spotted red or blue squares on a screen. After their tasks, the subjects were made to either take a 90-minute nap or stay awake before performing the same tasks again.
Scientists studied how the brains of the participants reacted using an EEG and saw that sleep improved the processing speed of the masked prime task. The same effect was not observed for the control task. This indicated that sleep was responsible for inducing improvement in tasks that were processed unconsciously.
The researchers conclude that even a bit of sleep can go a long way in helping us deal deeper with information that comes at us during waking hours.
The study was carried out by Netasha Shaikh and Elizabeth Coulthard from the University of Bristol.
Dr. Coulthard, who is the Consultant Senior Lecturer in Dementia Neurology at the University of Bristol Medical School, remarked that their "findings are remarkable in that they can occur in the absence of initial intentional, conscious awareness, by processing of implicitly presented cues beneath participants' conscious awareness."Check out the new study published in the Journal of Sleep Research.
For older adults, playing video games isn't just a way for older adults to keep in touch with the younger generation — it might be also be a way to stay in touch with memory itself.
For older adults, playing video games isn't just a way to stay in touch with the younger generation — it might also be a way to stay in touch with perception itself.
A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE showed that regularly playing Super Mario 64 for six months seemed to improve memory and increase the amount of grey matter in the brains of older adults, ages 55 to 75. The findings could someday improve treatment options for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease.
In the study, researchers divided 33 participants into three groups: one played Super Mario 64, one took online piano lessons, and one served as a control group that did neither activity. The video game and music lesson groups completed at least 30 minutes of training for five days per week. Some participants completed more training than was required. In fact, two participants in the video game group beat Super Mario 64 in its entirety and went on to play Super Mario Galaxy, a similar game.
In the paper, the researchers hypothesized that 3D-platform games can boost cognition and memory by serving as something like a mental workout. They referenced past research on young adults that showed how playing Super Mario 64 increased grey matter in the cerebellum. This new study, however, is the first to explore whether 3D-platform games can have similar effects on the neural structures of older adults.
But why Mario instead of, say, a racing game?
In 3D-platform games like Mario, players must familiarize themselves with a virtual world to succeed. They must build “cognitive maps” of the world as they play, memorizing landmarks and other salient features. These kinds of spatial learning processes take place in the hippocampus, one of several regions of the brain examined in the study.
The researchers proposed that playing Super Mario 64 for 6 months would increase the grey matter in several parts of the brain:
Hippocampus — “The relationship between the hippocampus and 3D-platform games is thought to be driven by the fact that 3D-platform games require the use of spatial memory processes to build a cognitive map of in-game environments and therefore requires learning that depends on the hippocampus.”
Cerebellum — “Because of Super Mario 64’s requirement for fine motor coordination, we also expected 3D-platform training to increase grey matter in the cerebellum.”
Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — “Super Mario 64 requires ample planning and the internal storage and manipulation of in-game information. We therefore predicted that training would increase grey matter in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).” The researchers also suggested video game training would boost cognitive performance among the older adults.
The results showed that participants who spent the six months playing Mario experienced improved short-term memory and showed increased grey matter in the cerebellum and hippocampus. Participants who took music lessons showed increased grey matter in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and cerebellum.
However, the control group, composed of adults who did neither video game or music training, showed atrophy in the three regions of the brain researchers examined.
Increased grey matter seen here in MRI scan of video game group adult after six months
The researchers can't yet say for sure whether it's 3D-platform video games or simply learning something new that staves off the degradation of grey matter and memory. One reason is because the size of the study was relatively small, which limits the conclusions that can be reasonably drawn from it. Still, study author Gregory West, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Montreal, thinks the results are promising for the treatment of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease.
"The good news is that we can reverse those effects and increase volume by learning something new, and games like Super Mario 64, which activate the hippocampus, seem to hold some potential in that respect," West said.