The Beauty of Words: A Neurocognitive Poetics Perspective

In this paper I would like to pave the ground for future studies in Computational Stylistics and (Neuro-)Cognitive Poetics by describing procedures for predicting the subjective beauty of words. A set of eight tentative word features is computed via Quantitative Narrative Analysis (QNA) and a novel metric for quantifying word beauty, the aesthetic potential is proposed. Application of machine learning algorithms fed with this QNA data shows that a classifier of the decision tree family excellently learns to split words into beautiful vs. ugly ones. The results shed light on surface and semantic features theoretically relevant for affective-aesthetic processes in literary reading and generate quantitative predictions for neuroaesthetic studies of verbal materials.

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Posted in Neuro-ocognition | Tagged

Listening, not testing, will improve children’s vocabulary

Every few months a story appears about the declining speech and language skills of children arriving in primary school. The epithet “the daily grunt” was invented by one newspaper to capture the lack of communication between parent and child, implying it caused poor communication skills and a lack of “school readiness”.

Now a new report by the UK school regulator Ofsted – its first on the early years – has called for children to start school at two years old, in part to help those from lower-income backgrounds who arrive at primary school with poor reading and speech.

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Posted in Children, Learning | Tagged ,

Reading to your child: the difference it make

If you are a parent or a teacher, you most probably read stories to young children. Together, you laugh and point at the pictures. You engage them with a few simple questions. And they respond.

So what happens to children when they participate in shared reading? Does it make a difference to their learning? If so, what aspects of their learning are affected?

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Posted in Children, Parenting | Tagged ,

Why more grandparents are raising their grandchildren

Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 is Grandparents Day. Many grandparents will receive loving cards, calls and emails from their grandchildren.

However, a significant number of grandparents – approximately 2.9 million – will do exactly what they do every day. They will make their grandchildren breakfast, organize their activities and help with homework in the evening.

So-called “custodial grandparents” have primary responsibility for raising one or more of their grandchildren. As researchers and health and social service professionals, we know that this is a growing group of often invisible caregivers.

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Posted in Aging, Grandparents | Tagged ,

Ageing in harmony: why the third act of life should be musical

It’s never too late to pick up a musical instrument. In fact there are many reasons why it’s a great idea, particularly in old age.

We normally hear about reasons to increase music education for children, and for good cause. There are many cognitive and social benefits to playing an instrument that aid a child’s development. Consequently, as an older adult, there are long-term effects of having taken part in these musical activities, as it can limit cognitive decline.

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Posted in Aging | Tagged

Babies can learn that hard work pays off

Researchers found that babies who watched an adult struggle to complete tasks before succeeding tried harder at their own difficult task, compared to babies who saw an adult succeed without effort.  Study finds infants try harder after seeing adults struggle to achieve a goal. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

A new study from MIT reveals that babies as young as 15 months can learn to follow this advice. The researchers found that babies who watched an adult struggle at two different tasks before succeeding tried harder at their own difficult task, compared to babies who saw an adult succeed effortlessly.

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Posted in Babies, Work | Tagged ,

Why daydreaming is good for you

Most people think of rest as the times when we stop work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength. But historians and anthropologists have discovered that what counts as rest has varied a lot over time and across cultures.

Rest is very difficult to understand, not least because it is experienced in so many different ways. To get a better understanding of what rest is, an international and interdisciplinary team of researchers, led by Durham University, recently launched the world’s largest study on rest, called the Rest Test. The Rest Test is an online survey to investigate people’s resting habits and their attitudes towards relaxation and busyness.

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Loneliness in the brain: cells with feelings of isolation

Humans, like all social animals, have a fundamental need for contact with others. This deeply ingrained instinct helps us to survive; it’s much easier to find food, shelter, and other necessities with a group than alone. Deprived of human contact, most people become lonely and emotionally distressed.

In a study, MIT neuroscientists have identified a brain region that represents these feelings of loneliness. This cluster of cells, located near the back of the brain in an area called the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), is necessary for generating the increased sociability that normally occurs after a period of social isolation, the researchers found in a study of mice.

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Read also: Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness

Posted in Brain, Loneliness | Tagged ,

Insecure childhood can make dealing with stress harder

Imagine two candidates at a high stakes job interview. One of them handles the pressure with ease and sails through the interview. The other candidate, however, feels very nervous and under-performs. Why do some people perform better than others under emotionally stressful conditions? The clue might lie in early childhood experiences, a recent study published in the open access online journal, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found.

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Posted in Childhood | Tagged

Is loneliness a bigger public health risk than obesity?

Loneliness can tank your mood, but can it affect your health, too? All signs point to yes. It turns out that feeling lonely can do more than make you sad: It can predict the way your body will respond to and bounce back from various health challenges. Lonely people are more likely to get sick, and researchers want to know why. Three of them recently spoke about the current state of loneliness research and how scientists are responding.

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Posted in Loneliness | Tagged