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Education Science

Why Toddlers Don't Do What They're Told 412

Hugh Pickens writes "New cognitive research shows that 3-year-olds neither plan for the future nor live completely in the present, but instead call up the past as they need it. 'There is a lot of work in the field of cognitive development that focuses on how kids are basically little versions of adults trying to do the same things adults do, but they're just not as good at it yet. What we show here is they are doing something completely different,' says professor Yuko Munakata at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Munakata's team used a computer game and a setup that measures the diameter of the pupil of the eye to determine mental effort to study the cognitive abilities of 3-and-a-half-year-olds and 8-year-olds. The research concluded that while everything you tell toddlers seems to go in one ear and out the other, the study found that toddlers listen, but then store the information for later use. 'For example, let's say it's cold outside and you tell your 3-year-old to go get his jacket out of his bedroom and get ready to go outside,' says doctoral student Christopher Chatham. 'You might expect the child to plan for the future, think "OK it's cold outside so the jacket will keep me warm." But what we suggest is that this isn't what goes on in a 3-year-old's brain. Rather, they run outside, discover that it is cold, and then retrieve the memory of where their jacket is, and then they go get it.'"
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Why Toddlers Don't Do What They're Told

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  • Oh (Score:4, Funny)

    by binarylarry ( 1338699 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @02:39AM (#27376999)

    So children learn by DOING, I get it.

    Man, I'm glad millions of dollars are going to these kinds of studies.

    • Re:Oh (Score:4, Funny)

      by okooolo ( 1372815 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @02:44AM (#27377027)
      I agree and have a feeling that if they substituted college students for toddlers they would get pretty similar results for a fraction of the price.
      • Re:Oh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by binarylarry ( 1338699 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @02:52AM (#27377061)

        Yep or pretty much anything with an organic brain.

        Attempt > Feedback > Store > Next Attempt

        • Re:Oh (Score:4, Funny)

          by ta bu shi da yu ( 687699 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @06:46AM (#27377927) Homepage

          Heck you could substitute a slug and you'd get the same result. Only you would also get a cool slug trail also, so that would be cooler.

          • Re:Oh (Score:5, Interesting)

            by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @10:13AM (#27378805) Homepage

            Toddlers unlike slugs are also stubborn, selfish and attention seeking. Refusing to put on the coat can also reflect the learnt skill, that refusing instruction results in more attention and becomes a fun game, the toddler training the adult rather than the adult training the toddler.

            To really understand the learning patterns of children you need to combine it with the learning patterns of their parents ;).

            • Re:Oh (Score:5, Funny)

              by ta bu shi da yu ( 687699 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @10:19AM (#27378839) Homepage

              I dunno man. My pet slug never does what he's told. All he ever does is eat, eat, eat. And if he doesn't get what he wants then he slimes my shoes. Ick.

              My slug directly disproves your point. It's stubborn, selfish and attention seeking. I hate my slug.

            • Re:Oh (Score:4, Funny)

              by ta bu shi da yu ( 687699 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @10:22AM (#27378853) Homepage

              P.S. slugs are much worse than toddlers when it comes to putting on their jackets. At least the toddler gets around to it. Slugs just like totally ignore you. When was the last time you saw slug wear a jacket? Never? Thought so.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

              I think most people. Especially most men, just lost the ability to be real figures of respect. I don't mean figures of "do this or I'll kick your ass". I mean the "Obama effect"... and later real respect like you would have for a wise leader.

              If you are good, you can even keep this respect when they get into puberty. Of course most parents fail epically an that moment.
              Old tribes have rituals for exactly this "becoming a man/women" thing. And I think it would be very cool if I would have had to prove myself i

            • Re:Oh (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @05:07PM (#27381791) Homepage

              Which results in entertainment for those of us that watch a really dumb parent trying to reason with that 3 year old.

              It blows my mind how college educated people at a fancy restaurant are completely inept at something basic like child rearing. Explaining to a 3 year old that, " your behavior is disrupting to others and is unacceptable." Is an incredibly joke. you smack their bottom and say sternly, "NO!" a 3 year old does not understand 11th grade vocabulary. Yet it is out of their cognitive ability to understand this basic thing.

    • Re:Oh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 29, 2009 @05:23AM (#27377635)

      Yeah, science is all about gut feelings. Why bother researching anything when we already know what the answers will be. We already know God created the universe in 7 days, why the hell are we wasting billions of dollars on astronomy, biology and physics?

      • Re:Oh (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 29, 2009 @09:44AM (#27378637)

        We already know God created the universe in 7 days, why the hell are we wasting billions of dollars on astronomy, biology and physics?

        To find out how he did it.

    • Re:Oh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Sunday March 29, 2009 @09:29AM (#27378561) Homepage

      So children learn by DOING, I get it.

      That's a nice summary, but can you describe the cognitive mechanisms by which they "learn by doing" and how that relates to brain development? I bet you can't without doing a study-- at least not in a way that provides anything but conjecture.

    • Re:Oh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nasor ( 690345 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:11PM (#27381017)
      Uh...no, that's not it at all. I know reading the article before posting is too much to hope for, but did you even read the summary? This study has nothing to do with how children learn, it's about children's ability to plan for the future. A child might have already very thoroughly learned that a coat will keep him warm when it's cold outside, and his first reaction upon noticing that he is cold might be "I should put on a coat." But he can't grasp the concept of "Even though I'm not cold now, I should put a coat on to avoid being cold later."
  • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @02:47AM (#27377037) Journal

    Hmm sounds like me. I also don't do what i am told and i don't plan for the future.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:24AM (#27377199)

      Hmm sounds like me. I also don't do what i am told and i don't plan for the future.

      Not quite. I think living in your mother's basement is a perfect plan for the future.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 29, 2009 @06:59AM (#27377977)

      Also sounds like my ex wife. It's not that she planned to have arguments, but everything I said and did was stored for future use against me.

      She also stored details of my bank accounts, income and capital assets which she was surprisingly adept at recalling during mediation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by rastos1 ( 601318 )

        Also sounds like my ex wife. It's not that she planned to have arguments, but everything I said and did was stored for future use against me.

        - ... Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. ...
        - Come on officer. You behave like a toddler!

  • Seriously, given how many times I've walked outside, discovered it was cold, then remembered where my jacket is, I don't see how that process is any different from the average person. I propose a new theory to explain why a toddler would run outside before getting their jacket, Toddlers don't have weather ESP.

    As for the whole in one ear and out the other thing, that's not unique to toddlers by any means. Ask any parent of a teenager, or a kid between toddler and teenager, or the teacher of a lazy college st

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SupremoMan ( 912191 )
      Well ideally, if someone told you it was cold outside before you went out, you would get the jacket before you went out.
    • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:07AM (#27377143)

      You're right - certainly... and I completely agree.

      I believe the speaker just became tripped up when they went for an explanation, however.

      What they meant to say was "Uggbga gholps belam gonitoa slhudipp-ti." - Which of course clearly shows that the toddler's train of thought was not only reasonable but well framed and acted upon.

      • Geez, you almost made me snort mi Rice Krispies! In the Peanuts cartoons, it was always the grown-ups that made the incomprehensible noises.
    • by cortesoft ( 1150075 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:09AM (#27377147)

      I think this research is meant to show a couple of things of import that you are seeming to gloss over in your criticism.

      For one, the difference between a lazy teenager ignoring what their parents told them and a toddler doing the same thing is that a lazy teenager IS choosing to ignore their parents - there is nothing different going on in their brains, they just don't want to do what they are told.

      A toddler, on the other hand, literally CAN'T do what they are told in certain instances, because they don't have the same thought process that adults have (which is what this research is trying to show). It's not that they are choosing to ignore their parents, they just don't have the reasoning capability at that age to comprehend complex conditional statements like "When I tell you it is cold outside get a jacket"

      I think the point of the research is that many parents expect things from their very young children that are just not possible. They think their kid is being stubborn or misbehaving when it is just developmental. So many parents get frustrated and angry at their child when they should just realize that they just have to wait for the kid to grow up a bit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by pbrown280 ( 1321539 )
        I'm with the OP on this. As the father of a 5 and a 3 year old, I know from experience that I can't tell the 3 year old to pick up the blocks, but I can point to a block, tell him to pick up *that* block, and then point to the bucket and tell him to put the block in the bucket. Then I can repeat the process x times where x equals the number of blocks on the floor.

        So as the OP said, if these eggheads would just have kids, they would know the outcome of their "research" through experience and intuition.
        • by cortesoft ( 1150075 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:40AM (#27377255)

          So basically your kid is like a programming language with poor looping support

        • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @04:24AM (#27377429)

          Reminds me of some really great research I read about in relation to morality.

          Before the age of I think ~3.5 children are unable to see the world from any other perspective but their own. If you run a test where you do something that the child would know about but someone not present wouldn't, they would be unable to understand the concept that they know something someone else doesn't.

          This applies strongly to empathy where a child is incapable of empathising with something else unless they themselves are feeling it.

          So when you ask a very small child "How do you think it makes so and so feel when you..." they have absolutely no clue. They incapable of creating a scenario in their head where they're on the receiving ends of their actions. Essentially they're little sociopaths. But it also means a lot of parents waste a lot of time and breath trying to get their children to understand something their brains just simply can't process. You can only give them very specific rules which they can understand. If you hit Tommy then you'll have to sit in time out. As opposed to trying to explain to your child "it makes tommy feel bad when you hit him."

          • by niteice ( 793961 )
            I would like to raise your statement an order of magnitude and suggest it is before the age of 35 that people are incapable of understanding that.
        • by IWannaBeAnAC ( 653701 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @09:08AM (#27378471)

          I think you (and a lot of posters here) are missing a basic point. Which is that you can have your own kids, observe them as much as you like or whatever, but unless you do a very careful and controlled experiment, you cannot distinguish what you think they are doing versus what is actually going on in their brain.

          That is the difference that distinguishes science from superstition. The whole history of science is chock full of examples where reality turns out to be different from intuition. Even if your intuition is actually correct in this case, simply knowing for sure that your intuition is correct is useful knowledge. And without a doubt, there are some details about the functioning of your child's brain where your intuition is completely wrong. The process of science is figuring out exactly what that is.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "A toddler, on the other hand, literally CAN'T do what they are told in certain instances, because they don't have the same thought process that adults have (which is what this research is trying to show). It's not that they are choosing to ignore their parents, they just don't have the reasoning capability at that age to comprehend complex conditional statements like "When I tell you it is cold outside get a jacket""

        I agree completeley with this statement but I also but it also doesn't merely apply to todd

      • by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Sunday March 29, 2009 @05:03AM (#27377569) Homepage

        I think the point of the research is that many parents expect things from their very young children that are just not possible. They think their kid is being stubborn or misbehaving when it is just developmental. So many parents get frustrated and angry at their child when they should just realize that they just have to wait for the kid to grow up a bit.

        I try to give my kids the chance to get more experience when they don't do as I need them to do. For instance, when we go out (winter time now) I tell my kids to start putting clothes on. My older ones (5) obviously get it, whereas my younger ones 2.5 sometimes do, and sometimes run away laughing.

        So I take one of the smaller kids and put their clothes on. Once done I take the other one, start doing the same thing. If they cooperate we're done in 5 mins or so (4 kids), whereas if they don't it can take ages.

        So if my younger ones don't cooperate I tell them that daddy will open the door soon and it will get cold unless they let me dress them. Eventually I do, they go "cooooold" and I get to dress them right away. :)

        So it seems I'm doing things right. I give them the chance to try and reason in their own way, and finally I give them proper incentive to do as I suggested in the first place by introducing nice motivating sensory stimuli. ;)

    • In the middle of winter, do you need to walk outside and discover it is cold or do you grab your jacket without a second thought?

      Maybe you live in a warmer climate where the weather may fluctuate around the "jacket/no jacket" line in cooler months, but in areas with more distinct seasons you plan your wardrobe ahead of time. -9 Degrees Fahrenheit outside? I guess I need to wear extra layers today. I should probably put on some boots, as the weather man said it would snow.

  • by ChangelingJane ( 1042436 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:05AM (#27377129)
    Good stuff. I think a lot of parental frustration comes from completely forgetting what it was like to be a kid. The more we learn of measurable differences in functioning between children and adults, the better. Ingrained beliefs can only get you so far.
  • kids and AI's... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:09AM (#27377149) Journal

    it makes one ponder how one approach the development of AI's to.

    sounds a bit like they are building up a bayesian database of conditions and actions, going more and more specific over time.

    like say how cold at first will just be a generic sense of temperature thats uncomfortable (thanks to it driving the surface temperature of the outer skin below whats healthy for the cells that makes up the skin). then later one add specifics like snow on the ground, ice and other indicators. as more of these shows up, one get a stronger sense that its cold outside, and that again triggers conditioned reflexes like wearing thick clothing.

    so, to turn this over to AI research, the approach may well be to start with a blank database and a collection of sensors and outputs. then one pile on a generic bayesian filter, and leave it running.

    • I second the motion. I'm learning more about AI by watching my daughter grow up than any academic experience. She's 19 months old now, and it's been a true education for me to see what is learned behavior and what is innate. [slashdot.org]

      • by hitmark ( 640295 )

        interesting post there.

        tho i wonder if the reach is not so much innate, but related to experiences potentially as afar back as the first weeks or months, when doing, to us, simple things like reaching for body parts.

        hell, it would not surprise me if depth perception is a learned thing, based on variations between inputs from the eyes as the various parts get their parameters changed.

        hmm, on that note, i suspect a randomizer may be in order, to kickstart early experiences.

        anyways, what im trying to say is th

        • Re:kids and AI's... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @05:03AM (#27377571) Homepage Journal
          I am a parent of a seven year old boy and I have to come down on the side of innate behaviour. Language learning started from birth and he made sounds to mimic words he had heard from a month or so of age. I noticed that his language tended to come in bursts. He started repeating simple sounds (like "poo" when his nappy was being changed) then abandoned that approach and returned weeks later with a more complex interpretation. His language didn't really get on track until he was 18 months old but did a lot of learning to get to that point. I definitely think the basics of language were there at birth.

          When he was about two years old we went to a science museum. There was a school group there at the time with kids sitting on the floor in a circle listening to a teacher. My son seemed to recognise this configuration immediately. He walked over to them, found a gap in the circle and sat down.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Just an alternate view

            Michael Tomasello at Max Plank Institute http://email.eva.mpg.de/~tomas/ [eva.mpg.de] would argue that what is innate is a child's sensitivity to social cues, not the basics of grammar.

            Slashdotters sarcastically refer to humans as "sheeple" sometimes, but it isn't so far off the mark. We're very sensitive to herd behavior from birth, and talking is one of those things that the herd does. The diaper change that your baby displayed early communication during was a routine social event that provided a

    • by jeti ( 105266 )

      For adults at least, a neuronal network predicts the behaviour better than a Bayes filter. Neuronal networks show different biases and errors than Bayes filters. The biases and errors observed in psychology experiments conform to the ones of the neuronal network.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I've always thought this is a problem with AI development.

      It takes 6 years of constant learning on the part of an incredibly complex intelligence software (us) to become relatively functional.

      And yet we drive a computer around a parking lot for 10 minutes and then give up in frustration.

      Language skills take decades to develop. Walking and balance take decades to develop. If we really want to be serious about learning systems we need one that can learn for years on end. Clone it. Then start selectively br

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Renraku ( 518261 )

      A kind of tagging system is how we relate most things.

      For example, fire might be tagged as awesome, hot, dangerous, orange, red, etc. All of those could be appropriate tags to people. Unfortunately, there's no right or wrong when it comes to tagging, its all about learning. You might learn that its hot when you put your hand on a candle as a toddler. You might learn it being dangerous from all the fire safety things they teach in early school, or even the stuff your parents might teach you. When you le

  • Neanderthal? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:17AM (#27377177) Journal

    That Neanderthal comparison continuation at the bottom of the article may not be accurate. For one, we don't know if they had language. Their voice box does not appear as developed as ours, but they may have used sign-language, which may be better for hunting than verbal. And they were not necessarily "more emotional". We just don't know.

    • Re:Neanderthal? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cp.tar ( 871488 ) <cp.tar.bz2@gmail.com> on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:42AM (#27377263) Journal

      Though their voice box was less developed than ours, it does not mean they did not have language. Their language may have been less refined, sure, but I'd give odds they really did have language of some sort.
      Besides, languages can also be whistled, clicked, drummed... the developed voice box surely makes it all the more convenient, but the cognitive abilities required for lanugage use are a tad different matter.

  • by overzero ( 1358049 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:21AM (#27377183)

    I really wanted to link to The Onion's "Study Reveals: Babies Are Stupid," but this is a far more critical and analytic approach to problems than most people tend to use. Blindly following rules is a horrible way to learn about anything. The best learners, in my experience, take advice into consideration, then try to see if it's good advice, and discover why or why not. Applied to the example from the summary, the kid who thinks "is it really that cold outside? Yes it is, I'll go get my coat" is going to turn out a lot better than the kid who goes straight for the coat, especially at times when the authority figures are wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:25AM (#27377207)

    So they don't believe what they are told until they verify it themselves? That would make them more intelligent than most adults. Children are being told lies all the time, I can't blame them for being skeptical.

  • I always think my 20 month old daughter will ask for a jacket if she really feels cold. Now to convince her mom or well-meaning friends and relatives :-)

  • by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @06:15AM (#27377815) Homepage Journal
    This is pretty obvious really. What irritates me is parents who don't get it. If you accept that a 3 year old child will do something before considering the consequences then allowing a kid to run in the street, or trusting it not to touch the red hot stove is really idiotic.

    I'm always angered when I see young mothers in the street letting their toddlers get 20 or 30 yards ahead or behind with no thought for the consequences. If that kid decides to run in the road, there is no way to get there in time. I've almost run over a kid like that - ran straight out from behind a parked car. Fortunately for all concerned I had already seen the kid as it disappeared behind the car. The father gave me a filthy look as I slammed the brakes on, and I was really tempted to get out and hammer him. Why should I suffer the (undeserved) guilt of killing a kid if the father was to blame. Apparently I'm supposed to care more about the kid than the parents do.
    BTW, it was dark, the parked car was parked illegally, and I was driving about 20mph in a 30 mph limit. The road was 2 lanes and one way. If the kid had continued running after I stopped it would have been caught by the guy on my left passing me at higher speed.

    When I was a kid my parents kept me on reins so I was never more than 2 feet and a tug away. Parents these days seem to think that is treating your kids like a dog. Stupid people. You cannot guarantee your kids safety by training when they are too young to consider their actions. No matter how bright they are.
    There is no fail safe with toddlers, you have to make sure there is no fail at all (as far as possible). It is not a matter of putting the big knife on a higher shelf, it is a matter of locking the big knife away. Don't hide the gun in a shoebox, lock the gun away. Etc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by barzok ( 26681 )

      When I was a kid my parents kept me on reins so I was never more than 2 feet and a tug away. Parents these days seem to think that is treating your kids like a dog.

      If you literally mean "reins" as in a leash then yes, that is treating your kid like a dog.

      It's called a hand. Learn to hold it.

      What a sad little childhood you must have had. Never more than 2' from your parents, not getting to stop & explore things. I took my 2-year-old son for a walk yesterday through a park. He insisted on holding my ha

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dwillden ( 521345 )
      Why don't you post again when you have a toddler or three, each of whomwho will simply collapse into a pile of screaming toddler flesh, the second time you strap them into their reins? (They will most likely try it once, until they realize what that harness means.)

      Your experience with the kid in the street does show that the father was a little lax in sticking close to his child, but doesn't really relate to the issue.

      Yes, you tolerated the reins, so your children may as well, but not necessarily, eac
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by barzok ( 26681 )

        (They will most likely try it once, until they realize what that harness means.)

        As duffbeer wrote above about dogs on leashes:

        Actually, putting a dog on one of those 12 foot leashes is one of the dumbest things that you can do to a dog. It makes the animal feel like she's in charge and reinforces all sorts of bad behaviors.

        Personally I've never felt a need to go beyond holding my 2 year old's hand to manage him outside his stroller. In the mall, he'll either hold my hand or stay close enough that it's no

  • by Flytrap ( 939609 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @06:24AM (#27377841)
    I remember when I was younger and my wife and I were first planning to have kids; we went to a parenting course and the guy giving the course (a pastor from some church or something) was explaining why corporal punishment was bad and tantamount to assaulting one's own kids.

    He said that toddlers will always be toddlers; they will always do things that they have been warned against, and perhaps been punished for before, over and over again. The reason, he said, was because toddlers only remember the consequences of their actions after the action. "They don't look ahead at the consequences of the action that they might be about to commit, but rather look back after the action and realise what the likely consequence is going to be."

    That was about 9 years ago!
    • by D-Cypell ( 446534 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @10:01AM (#27378721)

      Personally, I think that is rubbish.

      The pain response has been around for quite a while and is designed specifically to say to us... "That thing you just did... it was dangerous and damaging, DON'T do it again!!". I cannot believe that toddlers are somehow hardwired *not* to follow this piece of sensory advice. I am not a student of this subject, but it just makes good logical sense that there is a part of the brain (active at birth) that does the job of avoiding the repetition of actions that previously generated a painful response.

      For this reason, I support so called 'corporal punishment' as a tool for parents to hijack this process to teach kids to avoid behaviors where the end result might otherwise not simply provide a quick 'sting' (like running out into the road), or behaviors that break more complicated rules (like stealing). You certainly cannot reason with children this young and expect them to understand, but you can hijack a basic evolutionary mechanism and use it to your own (and the child's) advantage.

      Of course, there is a huge difference between a quick smack to the bottom to instill a sense of danger that is mentally linked with a given action and actually beating children in a way that causes lasting damage. The former is effective, proactive parenting, the latter should be punished to the full extent of the law.

      • by maraist ( 68387 ) * <michael.maraistN ... .com ['pam' in g> on Sunday March 29, 2009 @12:07PM (#27379597) Homepage

        Whether corporal punishment works or not. The issue is the word punishment.. A child can not react to the classical definition of punishment. They can only digest, as you suggest the fact that there is an immediate reaction to walking into a wall, touching a hot plate, etc. Simulating the immediate reaction can only work if it's as consistent. If a child eventually learned that they can sometimes run through a wall with no pain, then they will be all the more encouraged and frustrated when they are only occasionally blocked. Thus the occasional punishment leads them to learn something other than what the evolution-hijacking was intending.

        Namely that X + parent == pain, instead of just that X == pain.. If you implement (X,Y,Z,A,J,K) + parent == pain, but X..K by themselves don't, then eventually they learn that it's really parent that equals pain.

        Certainly controlling your child's behavior is critical, but just recognize that you need nearly 100% consistency in the experiences of a child to assure discouraged behavior.. Most likely this isn't always practical - thus the unintended side-effects might outweigh the benifits in this case.

        I haven't decided which approach I'm going to take just yet.. I only have another couple months. :(

  • by cvd6262 ( 180823 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @08:34AM (#27378287)

    As any parent will tell you, the "terrible twos" are a myth. It's the three-year-olds that have the potent combination of independent ability and lack of responsibility.

    I think they should name this study in honor of Bill Cosby's "I dun-no!" sketches.

  • Where's the control? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Oswald ( 235719 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @08:53AM (#27378387)

    I read TFA, and it sounds to me like this thing lacked a control group. They included the eight year-olds, but they don't count because this task was not new to them. Match a two-symbol pattern? Child's play (ha ha). Try something a little harder.

    I've done enough OJT of adults to believe that everybody, pretty much regardless of age, fails to anticipate the pattern until the whole thing has played out when they're doing something new and challenging. I think it's very common for people not to consider the possibility that they're seeing a train until they see the caboose -- then they try to remember if they saw an engine and some boxcars first. (This is a metaphor -- I know nobody's this stupid.)

    I don't think this study proves anything.

  • by Robert Plamondon ( 1516623 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @11:16AM (#27379233) Homepage
    I write user manuals for network equipment, and IT guys are just like toddlers. They slap in a piece of equipment, do the usual things to it, and only if it doesn't work do they engage their memories about what they've been told about THIS box, as opposed to some internalized archetypal box. That's why it's so important to make interfaces work the way people expect them to, with your special secret sauce elsewhere. Car makers figured this out ages ago. All cars have a steering wheel instead of joystick or a rudder or whatever, because people are going to get in and go before they stop to figure out the controls.
  • by psnyder ( 1326089 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @11:27AM (#27379301)
    Dr. Maria Montessori, an MD specializing in psychiatry, came to the same realization approximately 100 years ago. However, her results were based on psychological observation, and now they are being backed up by modern science with things like Dr. Munakata's study.

    From the article:

    What would be more effective would be to somehow try to trigger this reactive function. So don't do something that requires them to plan ahead in their mind, but rather try to highlight the conflict that they are going to face.

    The wonderful thing is that this knowledge is already being put into widespread practice today. After "fixing deficient children" and having them score equally to "normal" children on exams, Dr. Montessori was given an opportunity to open a school in a ghetto in Rome. The law at the time would not allow her to work with Elementary aged children because she was not a certified teacher, so she was initially forced to work with children between 3 - 7 yrs. It was there that she came to the same conclusion (and others) about developmental psychology.

    The school evolved into an environment where the children of the younger plane (3-6) could use autodidactic materials in order to "trigger this reactive function" and "highlight the conflicts that they were going to face". Even the teachers in the school were instructed on how to become part of this environment, while guiding the children to new challenges. This is in stark contrast to the "teacher-centric" environments that we still have today, in which the teacher tries to control the activities through adult reasoning and psychology.

    Towards the end of her life, after working with all ages, she considered that developmental psychology could be looked on as 4 distinct age groups, she called "plains of development": (0 - 6), (6 - 12), (12 - 18), (18 - 24). Each has a number of characteristics and tendencies that strengthen or become marginalized depending on their natural development. These tendencies are strongest in the middle (which is why Dr. Munakata's research worked so well), and blend in between.

    Dr. Montessori gave up her career as a doctor to create materials, open schools, train teachers, and put her findings into useful practice. I'd recommend anyone with children to look into it further. As with Dr. Munakata's research, there's much that can be done in both home and school. There's a fairly good, quick overview from Milwaukee Public schools [k12.wi.us] where many public schools were converted into Montessori schools. Most Montessori schools you'll find are private.

    But be warned, the name "Montessori" is not copyrighted, and many use it to make money. I'd suggest starting with schools associated with AMI (Association Montessori Internationale [this is the association Dr. Montessori created herself]), NAMTA (North American Montessori Teacher's Association), or AMS (American Montessori Society), as they seem to be the more reputable organizations.

    The Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] mainly focuses on (3-6) education, and other aspects are sparse. One book that attempts to explain the approach through modern psychological findings is: "Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius [google.com]"

    But probably the best thing to do, after a bit of web research, would probably be to visit a school run by AMI or AMS trained teachers and see for yourself.

  • by johnrpenner ( 40054 ) on Sunday March 29, 2009 @03:34PM (#27381185) Homepage

        The most effective kind of education is that
        a child should play amongst lovely things. (Plato)

    Human beings are the most imitative of all animals. This is especially true of
    the child before the change of teeth. Everything is imitated during this time,
    and as whatever enters the child through its senses as light and sound works
    formatively on the organs, it is of utmost importance that what surrounds the
    child should act beneficially.

    At this age nothing is achieved by admonition; commands and prohibitions have
    no effect whatever. But of greatest significance is the EXMAPLE. What the
    child sees, what happens around him, he feels must be imitated. For instance:
    the parents of a well-behaved child were astonished to discover that he had
    taken money from a cashbox; greatly distrubed, they thought the child had
    inclinations to steal. Questioning brought to light that the child had simply
    imitated what he had seen his parents do everyday.

    It is important that the examples the child sees and imitates are of a kind
    that awaken inner forces. Exhortations have no effect, but the way a person
    behaves in the child's presence matters greatly. It is far more important to
    refrain from doing what the child is not permitted to do than to fobid the
    child to imitate it.

    (Rudolf Steiner, Lecture VI, Cologne, December 1, 1906, "Education...", p.96)

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming