People have been raising children for thousands of years, but we still have little understanding of how babies learn to speak, analyze, and plan. Human intelligence still surprises us: for example, it allows a child to learn grammar already in infancy, and computer games, which we used to consider evil, are good for it.
We love to delve into human brains, and today we decided to find out what IQ depends on and how to grow from your child, if not a genius, then a very smart guy.
Children of wealthy parents have better intelligence
Scientists from 9 American universities decided to find out how socio-economic factors affect brain development at an early age. They studied 1,100 healthy children and adolescents between the ages of 3 and 20. It turned out that the financial situation of parents affects the state of the cerebral cortex of their offspring, in particular the zones responsible for the ability to speak and read.
Children from families with an annual income of more than $ 150,000 have an average of 6% more brain regions than those whose parents earn less than $ 25,000 a year. In addition, children from poor families performed much worse on cognitive tests suggested by scientists. The researchers suggested that it’s probably all about the capabilities of the parents, because in poor families, children have poorer quality of nutrition and medical care and fewer resources for development – clubs, sections, travel.
Several years later, psychologists at the University of Kansas studied 42 families from a wide variety of social backgrounds, observing babies from 9 months to 3 years old. As a result, they made an unexpected discovery: children from wealthier families had more vocabulary.
But it’s not about money
Observing the communication between parents and children, scientists found out that in poor families, parents, as a rule, made short and formal remarks like “Sit down!”, “Stop immediately!”. While wealthy mothers and fathers had long conversations with the kids on various topics.
Another problem for low income families is the higher stress levels associated with a lack of money. As a result, there is often a high level of physical or psychological abuse. A 2002 study found that a junior high school student experiencing this abuse had an average IQ of 7.5 points. In addition, his reading ability deteriorates.
Speech is the basis of intelligence
For a long time, scientists believed that children first learn sounds, then begin to understand words, and only then groups of words. However, it was recently discovered that babies learn grammar from birth. This was confirmed by an experiment with 4-month-old babies who were played back in an unknown language.
At first, the children heard a series of grammatically correct Italian sentences: for example, “A brother can sing” and “Sister sings.” After 3 minutes, they were allowed to listen to other phrases in Italian, some of which were incorrect: “Brother can sing,” “Sister can sing,” and so on.
The babies’ brain activity was tested using electrodes attached to their heads. During the first experiment, the infants perceived correct and incorrect sentences equally. But after a few rounds, they began to react completely differently to erroneous constructions. In 15 minutes, the children understood which sentences were built correctly, without even grasping the meaning of the phrases.
Another experiment showed that children at 11 months old are able to distinguish their native language from a foreign one. Therefore, the more and better the parents talk with the child in his first year of life, the easier it will be for him to master speech. And the development of linguistic abilities is accompanied by the growth of neural connections, the child’s brain is constantly trained, which will further affect his intelligence.
Shouts and punishments interfere with intellectual development
The University of Oregon has put together an entire curriculum for poor families. In the first few sessions, parents are taught how to reduce the stress levels associated with daily caring for their babies. In particular, teachers recommend more often resorting to so-called positive reinforcement. “We encourage you to less scold your toddler when he smokes, and instead praise him every time he does something good,” explains Sara Burlingame, one of the teachers.
After the course, the researchers assess the children’s language proficiency, non-verbal IQ and attentiveness. By interviewing parents, they also learn about the behavior of the children. As a result, the indicators of babies have become much higher. “When you change your parenting approach and stress levels decrease, it leads to increased control over emotions and improved cognition in children,” says neuroscientist Helen Neville.
Computer games help the brain develop
It is believed that computer games are definitely evil for children. But scientists from the University of York found that gamers who succeed in strategy games performed better on the IQ test. Such entertainment requires a good memory and high analytical skills from the player, allowing him to make strategic decisions.
And 10 years earlier, researchers had come to the conclusion that virtually any game develops an agile intelligence that is responsible for the ability to learn. They conducted an experiment in which participants played Tetris for several weeks. As a result, the activity and thickness of the test subjects’ cerebral cortex increased. This indicates an increase in the number of neural connections.
But soon the thickness and activity of the cerebral cortex began to decrease and eventually returned to pre-study levels, even though the skill levels of the players remained high. The brain became so efficient when playing Tetris that the enhanced neural connections were no longer necessary.
This means that in order for neural connections to continue to grow, you need to constantly learn new skills, not stopping at tetris, strategy or the pyramid.
Going to a concert won’t make you smarter. Unless the child needs to perform there
There is such a thing as the “Mozart effect” . This is the theory that listening to the music of a great composer can help improve your IQ scores. However, more recent studies have shown that listening to classical music, while improving cognitive ability, is at best a short-term effect, lasting no more than 10-15 minutes.
It’s another matter if it’s not about listening to music, but about playing instruments or singing. Scientists from Harvard Medical School conducted an experiment in which 59 children, aged 10, took part. 2/3 of the subjects learned to play keyboards or strings for at least 3 years. They, in contrast to those who did not study music, turned out to have a richer vocabulary, and the results of tests on visual-figurative thinking were higher.
How do you develop your child? Share your secrets with us.