Socioeconomic background linked to reading improvement

About 20 percent of children in the United States have difficulty learning to read, and educators have devised a variety of interventions to try to help them. Not every program helps every student, however, in part because the origins of their struggles are not identical.

MIT neuroscientist John Gabrieli is trying to identify factors that may help to predict individual children’s responses to different types of reading interventions. As part of that effort, he recently found that children from lower-income families responded much better to a summer reading program than children from a higher socioeconomic background.

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Posted in Children, Reading, Socioeconomic status | Tagged , ,

Montessori Preschooling Elevates and Equalizes Child Outcomes

Quality preschool programs that develop the whole child through age-appropriate socioemotional and cognitive skill-building hold promise for significantly improving child outcomes. However, preschool programs tend to either be teacher-led and didactic, or else to lack academic content. One preschool model that involves both child-directed, freely chosen activity and academic content is Montessori. Here we report a longitudinal study that took advantage of randomized lottery-based admission to two public Montessori magnet schools in a high-poverty American city. The final sample included 141 children, 70 in Montessori and 71 in other schools, most of whom were tested 4 times over 3 years, from the first semester to the end of preschool (ages 3–6), on a variety of cognitive and socio-emotional measures. Montessori preschool elevated children’s outcomes in several ways. Although not different at the first test point, over time the Montessori children fared better on measures of academic achievement, social understanding, and mastery orientation, and they also reported relatively more liking of scholastic tasks. They also scored higher on executive function when they were 4. In addition to elevating overall performance on these measures, Montessori preschool also equalized outcomes among subgroups that typically have unequal outcomes. First, the difference in academic achievement between lower income Montessori and higher income conventionally schooled children was smaller at each time point, and was not (statistically speaking) significantly different at the end of the study. Second, defying the typical finding that executive function predicts academic achievement, in Montessori classrooms children with lower executive function scored as well on academic achievement as those with higher executive function. This suggests that Montessori preschool has potential to elevate and equalize important outcomes, and a larger study of public Montessori preschools is warranted.

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Posted in Montessori, Preschooling, Psychology | Tagged , ,

Loneliness in the Modern Age: An Evolutionary Theory of Loneliness

We describe the Cacioppo Evolutionary Theory of Loneliness (ETL) and its manifestations in contemporary society. The early conceptualizations of loneliness were as an individual difference characterizing a relatively small subset of the population. The ETL characterizes loneliness as not simply addressing an individual difference, but also as addressing the effects of loneliness on people generally. The progression motivated by the ETL to animal models and comparative analyses broadens the focus further to periods long before hominids evolved. The premise underlying our ETL is that an organism’s perception of being socially isolated (i.e., lonely) automatically signals an environment in which the likelihood is low of encountering social behaviors categorized in terms of evolutionary fitness as mutual benefit or altruism. As a result, the likelihood is high of the organism exhibiting behaviors categorized in terms of evolutionary fitness as selfish. This shift in the fitness consequences of behavior is posited to be evolutionarily old and to operate in humans in part through nonconscious processes. The ETL addresses the adaptive functions of loneliness that foster short-term survival but that in the modern world can have deleterious long-term consequences. In doing so, the ETL places the social level of organization front and center in scientific investigations of the human brain and behavior. The centrality of the social world highlighted by the ETL is not attributed to social construction but to social and biological processes, including evolutionary forces operating across social species long before humans walked the earth.

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REad also: On Loneliness and Companionship

The perils of a Life in Isolation

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Early Predictors of Child’s Bully and Victim Statuses

Although bullying is known to have detrimental effects, less is known regarding how these bullies and victims develop within the contexts of their homes and schools, and how early childhood behaviors can predict later bullying/victimization statuses. Parent, teacher, and student reports from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Kindergarten (ECLS-K) 1998–1999 cohort (N = 11,715) representing a nationwide sample of children, were utilized to predict child’s bully and victim status in eighth grade (age 13–14) using data from seven collection points. Results indicated child characteristics from the earliest time points identified children at risk for becoming both bullies and victims, although familial characteristics were only able to predict bully status. Identifying these characteristics provides opportunities for early intervention in children’s lives, potentially preventing negative effects of bullying and victimization on academic, social, and emotional functioning. Implications for future research, including special considerations for individuals with internalizing behaviors, are discussed.

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Children Separated From Parents

What consequences would a parent face if they forced their own child to live in a cage? Their actions would be considered child abuse and neglect, and such conduct is condemned by our institutions!

Child Endangerment refers to an act or omission that renders a child to psychological, emotional, or physical abuse. Child abuse based on the offense of child endangerment is normally a misdemeanor, but endangerment that results in mental illness or serious physical illness or injury is a felony. Is this institutionalized child abuse? Who will pay for this crime?

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Read also: What’s Wrong with Separating Children from their Parents?

Posted in Children, Parents | Tagged ,

Social Physics: Uncovering Human Behaviour from Communication

In the post year 2000 era the technologies that facilitate human communication have rapidly multiplied. While the adoption of these technologies has hugely impacted the behaviour and sociality of people, specifically in urban but also in rural environments, their “digital footprints” on different data bases have become an active area of research. The existence and accessibility of such large population-level datasets, has allowed scientists to study and model innate human tendencies and social patterns in an unprecedented way that complements traditional research approaches like questionnaire studies. In this review we focus on data analytics and modelling research – we call Social Physics – as it has been carried out using the mobile phone data sets to get insight into the various aspects of human sociality, burstiness in communication, mobility patterns, and daily rhythms.

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Posted in Big data, Complex network | Tagged ,

Social Epistemology: Essential Readings

What if anything justifies us in believing the testimony of others? How should we react to disagreement between ourselves and our peers, and to disagreement among the experts when we ourselves are novices? Can beliefs be held by groups of people in addition to the people composing those groups? And if so, how should groups go about forming their beliefs? How should we design social systems, such as legal juries and scientific research-sharing schemes, to promote knowledge among the people who engage in them? When different groups of people judge different beliefs to be justified, how can we tell which groups are correct? These questions are at the heart of the vital discipline of social epistemology. Epistemology is social in a number of ways, and it has been so for a long time, at least since Plato.  In recent years, the social aspects of epistemology have been the subject of increasing (and increasingly sophisticated) philosophical attention. Social epistemology is a blooming discipline, full of exciting work on topics old and new. This book brings some central parts of this work together in one place, making them accessible to students and researchers alike. We have collected work under five headings: conceptions of social epistemology, trust in testimony and experts, reasonable peer disagreement, judgment aggregation, and social system design.

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The Biological Scars of Separation

“Cruelty is surely the very worst of human sins. To fight cruelty, in any shape or form – whether it be towards other human beings or non-human beings – brings us into direct conflict with that unfortunate streak of inhumanity that lurks in all of us.” – Jane Goodall (2010: 306)

On May 13, a 39-year old Honduran father named Marco Antonio Muñoz was found dead on the floor of a padded cell in a Texas jail. Muñoz reportedly “lost it” the previous day after U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended his family and physically removed his 3-year old son from his arms, leading agents to place him in isolation. The details of the tragic suicide are gruesome and indicate that having his son taken from him was the final straw for Muñoz, whose family had undergone tremendous stress prior to crossing the border. A Honduran consul revealed that one of their family members had been killed, leading them to decide to flee and seek asylum in the United States. They did not find the relief they sought.

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Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary psychology is one of many biologically informed approaches to the study of human behavior. Along with cognitive psychologists, evolutionary psychologists propose that much, if not all, of our behavior can be explained by appeal to internal psychological mechanisms. What distinguishes evolutionary psychologists from many cognitive psychologists is the proposal that the relevant internal mechanisms are adaptations—products of natural selection—that helped our ancestors get around the world, survive and reproduce. To understand the central claims of evolutionary psychology we require an understanding of some key concepts in evolutionary biology, cognitive psychology, philosophy of science and philosophy of mind. Philosophers are interested in evolutionary psychology for a number of reasons. For philosophers of science —mostly philosophers of biology—evolutionary psychology provides a critical target. There is a broad consensus among philosophers of science that evolutionary psychology is a deeply flawed enterprise. For philosophers of mind and cognitive science evolutionary psychology has been a source of empirical hypotheses about cognitive architecture and specific components of that architecture. Philosophers of mind are also critical of evolutionary psychology but their criticisms are not as all-encompassing as those presented by philosophers of biology. Evolutionary psychology is also invoked by philosophers interested in moral psychology both as a source of empirical hypotheses and as a critical target.

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Read also: The Moral Animal – Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary Social Psychology

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Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is the capacity to distinguish between valid and invalid processes of inference and information sources; it requires the formation of beliefs based upon sound reasoning. The word critical derives from the Greek word “critic” and implies a critique; it identifies the intellectual capacity and the means “of judging” and of being “able to discern.” Much information and knowledge in everyday life can not be proven to be decisively correct or incorrect; critical reasoning is the capacity for objective analysis and evaluation in order to form a judgment on the process through which knowledge or information was generated. The literature on critical thinking has roots in two primary academic disciplines: philosophy and psychology.

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