Psychologists generally regard preschoolers as supreme copycats. Those little bundles of energy will imitate whatever an adult does to remove a prize from a box, including irrelevant and just plain silly stuff. If an experimenter pats a container twice before lifting a latch to open it, so will most kids who watched the demonstration.
There’s an official scientific name for mega-mimicry of this sort: overimitation. Maybe copying everything helps youngsters learn rituals and other cultural quirks. Maybe kids imitate to excess so that an adult who appears to possess special knowledge will like them.
Or maybe overimitation is overrated. In realistic learning situations — where children can gauge whether a majority of adults are patting a box or otherwise going off course before getting down to business — copycat fever cools off dramatically.
That’s the conclusion of... Read More
When you’re pregnant, you spend a lot of time on scales. Every doctor appointment begins with hopping (or waddling) up for a weigh-in. Health care workers then plot those numbers into a (usually) ascending curve as the weeks go by.A morbid curiosity... Read More
Ultrasounds during pregnancy can be lots of fun, offering peeks at the baby-to-be. But ultrasounds aren’t just a way to get Facebook fodder. They are medical procedures that involve sound waves, technology that could, in theory, affect a growing... Read More
Hunter-gatherers and farming villagers don’t write parenting handbooks, much less read them. But parents in WEIRD societies — Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic — can still learn a few childrearing lessons from their counterparts... Read More
One of the strangest things about growing a human being inside your body is the alien sensation of his movements. It’s wild to realize that these internal jabs and pushes are the work of someone else’s nervous system, skeleton and muscles. Someone... Read More
Over the past week, my little girls have seen Santa in real life at least three times (though only one encounter was close enough to whisper “yo-yo” in his ear). You’d think that this Santa saturation might make them doubt that each one was the real... Read More
The holiday onslaught is upon us. For some families with children, the crush of holiday gifts — while wonderful and thoughtful in many ways — can become nearly unmanageable, cluttering both rooms and minds.This year, I’m striving for simplicity as I... Read More