Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Babies Underestimated

This semester I am taking a course in Developmental Psychology. We were presented with an article written by Newsweek and previously New York Times journalist Sharon Begley called Wired for Thought: Babies know more, and know it sooner, than researchers ever suspected. There is a mind in the crib requiring stimulation to thrive. The link provided takes you to the article posted on the Abnormal Psychology page at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the only place I could find it online sine it was written in 2000. Our professor asked us to critique the article given a set of guidelines and I though I would share both on here as the article is chalked full of information! Hope you enjoy!

Wired for Thought

The sequence of development in the human brain is a critical topic of developmental psychology. Understanding the sequence in which parts of the brain mature after birth allows for further study and understanding of the capacity and quality to which associated centers are utilized by different individuals. Study conducted during infancy allows researchers to observe the very primitive and fundamental processes of neural development. As humans age, our experiences increase the complexity with which neural development is associated and how it controls our cognitive processes, behaviors, emotions and the entire array of characteristics that makes us who we are as individuals.   
Sharon Begley is credited with the ability to share her knowledge and opinions of scientific material with the general public. Her article “Wired for Thought”, is consistent with the hundreds of articles she has written highlighting the latest research headlining news and what you would expect to see in a journalist specializing in scientific material. The article is literal, upfront and quite intriguing with numerous case studies to back data. Often, articles from journalists are chalked full of personal bias, but not this one. She poses and addresses questions that I found myself contemplating before I reached the next section. I was entertained by her conclusion in drawing together the nature versus nurture issue by a statement made by neurobiologist Lise Eliot, “the sequence of brain development is genetically programmed….the quality of neural development is shaped by a child’s experiences…”, and I agree with her.
Many times I found myself “ah-ha-ing” while reading through the article; I agree with several findings that were presented. General psychology introduced me to the fact that children are capable of understanding more at a younger age than what was previously thought, through the criticisms of Piaget’s theory. Humans are social beings with inherent drives; therefore it was easy for me to follow the conclusion that children are driven to master their world and are “prewired to learn.” I see this everyday as I watch Trayton manipulate and study his environment. I also agree with the statement that “babies use other people to figure out the world”, I just had no idea to what extent this statement was true until reading the article. Mimicking faces, vocalizations and gestures seem superficial compared to the fact that babies learn to judge what is good and bad in the world by gauging the reactions of others; this goes beyond the fact that as parents we should lead by example, we need to live by example as well so as not to confuse our children, “This is an age when parents have a clear shot at teaching babies how the world works … otherwise acting as they hope their children will.” Lastly, Sharon Begley hit the nail on the head when she stated that children do not need “fancy learning games and overstimulation” to develop properly. Children simply need attentive parents who will spend the time fostering their children’s development through daily interactions.
The article is laced with information of beneficial use in everyday life. My favorite is that a child’s learning begins with the caregivers, in an environment enriched by the time, love, patience and drive to help the child grow and succeed. My second favorite and the overtone of the article, is that we should not assume for a second that what a baby is experiencing is not affecting their development, no matter how young or what the experience may be. We shouldn’t take for granted an opportunity to help our children develop and perhaps foster our own growth through the experience. However, we should keep in mind that over stimulation and an intense drive to foster development can be just as detrimental as ignoring the child. All in moderation.

Wishing you a pot o' gold, and all the joy your heart can hold. Thanks for reading! Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

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