Teenagers, as a rule, are rebellious, don’t listen to their parents, do stupid, reckless, dangerous things, and are generally a huge pain for parents to deal with. An article in the National Geographic, based on recent research into brain functioning, explains why all of this happens, and more importantly, explains why this is actually good for the teenager (as long as one of the reckless things does not kill him/her).
The article is long, and parts are rather boring, but some parts, especially on the second page, are quite insightful.
I’ll summarize with very broad, simplistic strokes:
- Yes, teenagers do take more dangerous risks than most other age groups
- They do understand the dangers involved (so you telling them “Don’t you know what could happen?” is not particularly useful)
- The main difference between teenagers and others is that they value the rewards (gained from taking the risks) much more than adults
- Teenagers take more risks in the company of their friends/peers. In other words, they value “social rewards” and “peer recognition” quite a lot – much more so than adults
- In general, this is evolution’s way of encouraging teenagers to learn new things, explore new opportunities, to boldly go where they haven’t gone before. This prepares them for leaving their parents’ home and going out into the world on their own
- They prefer the company of young people. Parents, teenagers don’t what you as friends, they want their friends as friends. (As explained previously, they are wired to get excited about new and unknown things, and parents are neither new, nor unknown, nor exciting.) Evolutionarily speaking, this is the teenagers investing in their future rather than their past or present
- To help, parents should “engage and guide their teens with a light but steady hand, staying connected but allowing independence.” While the teenagers should obviously benefit from your experience (and they often do – but a little later than you would like), their primary instinct is to learn from their own mistakes. Let them.
I am not the parent of a teenager, so I have no idea what I’m talking about. But I’m good at summarizing long articles into pithy blog posts.
You should probably read the full article.
This article, reports that making school students go through positive psychology exercises helps them get a better impression of school in general, improves their behavior in classroom, and a bunch of other good stuff.
For example, one exercise in the positive psychology asked students to list 3 good things that happened to them each day for a week – then the follow-up questions asked what the event meant to them and what can increase the likelihood of this happening again (kind of connecting the dots for the students).
The net result: positive thinking and resiliency training improved students' school outlook and engagement, improved classroom behavior and cooperation, resulted in more self-control, and more empathy. Not bad!
That's not all – think about this:
students who believed that intelligence was a fixed entity were more likely to show no improvement in their math achievement from 7th to 8th grade, more likely to withdraw or cheat, and less likely to demonstrate mastery-reactions to setbacks. Not surprisingly, the students who believed intelligence could be 'grown' – were more likely to persevere, show resiliency behaviors to setbacks, and improve performance.
See full article
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Superstitions evolved to help us survive according to this New Scientist article.
Darwin never warned against crossing black cats, walking under ladders or stepping on cracks in the pavement, but his theory of natural selection explains why people believe in such nonsense.
The tendency to falsely link cause to effect – a superstition – is occasionally beneficial, says Kevin Foster, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University.
For instance, a prehistoric human might associate rustling grass with the approach of a predator and hide. Most of the time, the wind will have caused the sound, but “if a group of lions is coming there’s a huge benefit to not being around,” Foster says.
Foster and colleague Hanna Kokko, of the University of Helsinki, Finland, sought to determine exactly when such potentially false connections pay off.
Rather than author just-so stories for every possible superstition – from lucky rabbit’s feet to Mayan numerology – Foster and Kokko worked with mathematical language and a simple definition for superstition that includes animals and even bacteria.
The pair modelled the situations in which superstition is adaptive. As long as the cost of believing a superstition is less than the cost of missing a real association, superstitious beliefs will be favoured.
Read the full article.