Forget Brainstorming

Brainstorming in a group became popular in 1953 with the publication of a business book, "Applied Imagination." But it's been proven not to work since 1958, when Yale researchers found that the technique actually reduced a team's creative output: the same number of people generate more and better ideas separately than together.

The Creativity Crisis

Back in 1958, Ted Schwarzrock was an 8-year-old third grader when he became one of the "Torrance kids," a group of nearly 400 Minneapolis children who completed a series of creativity tasks newly designed by professor E. Paul Torrance. Schwarzrock still vividly remembers the moment when a psychologist handed him a fire truck and asked, "How could you improve this toy to make it better and more fun to play with?"

Why Counting Blessings Is So Hard for Teenagers

As Thanksgiving preparations shifted into high gear, media outlets large and small have been opining on the importance of gratitude, but, more specifically, they've often targeted their sights on the most ungrateful creature of all: the adolescent.   Pointing to the research of Hofstra professor Jeffrey Froh, a number of these reports have suggested that it is remarkably easy to rid your teen of his selfishness and entitlement. All you've got to do is have your teen start making daily...

What Do Preschools Have in Common with Bridges?

If you are heading into Manhattan, off the George Washington Bridge, you can't miss the Bridge Apartments, a cluster of four 32-story apartment buildings built right over the interstate. The buildings' 4,000 residents seem like nothing compared to the 300,000 cars that go whizzing underneath the buildings each day.   Built in 1964, the Apartments were to be a shining (aluminum-sided) monument to efforts in easing New York's chronic housing shortage. Nearly all the apartments were reserved...

Kids' Food Allergies are Skyrocketing – Is the Spike Real?

A couple years ago, I found out that I'm allergic to peaches. I've had a handful of food allergies for my entire life, but they have been mostly petty annoyances─stomachache after eating cherries, that sort of thing. And I had eaten peaches for my entire life with no apparent difficulty. However, one afternoon, I took a single bite of a peach. As the fruit traveled down my throat, my throat felt like it was collapsing. My voice disappeared to a raspy whisper. I was told later that I...

A Cure for ADHD?

One out of four cases of ADHD eliminated. It almost sounds too good to be true. Nevertheless, a report in the preeminent journal Pediatrics suggests it's possible.What needs to happen for this to occur? Some new miracle drug or radical kind of psychotherapy?Nope. All it could take is treatment of children's snoring.ADHD is defined by a list of symptoms, so if a kid has those symptoms, then he likely has the disorder. But what causes those symptoms may vary from child to child. And...

Why Teens Care So Much About Clothes

"We place kids in schools together with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other kids typically from similar economic and cultural backgrounds. We group them all within a year or so of one another in age. We equip them with similar gadgets, expose them to the same TV shows, lessons, and sports. We ask them all to take almost the exact same courses and do the exact same work and be graded relative to one another. We give them only a handful of ways in which they can meaningfully demonstrate their...

Why Tarantulas Can Seem So Scary

It's not every day that social scientists use tarantulas in their experiments. Professor Kent Harber brought unwitting Rutgers students into his lab. They were escorted into a semi-darkened room and asked to stand right in front of a table. Then the lights snapped on, revealing a huge hairy crawling tarantula a couple feet away.(There was no real danger: the spider was contained in a glass box, but it was big enough and close enough to have the desired effect.) Harber asked the students to...

Why Masked Costumes Lead to More Tricks and More Treats

Every year for about the past 10 years, my friends and I have pooled together some money to get a bunch of Halloween costumes for the tutoring kids. (The kids can't just wear some of Mom's makeup or cut up a sheet for a ghost costume. Mom can't afford makeup, and they only have a couple sheets for the entire family.)Several years ago, it had been a rough year for all of us tutors financially. At the same time, there were about 50 kids on our list for costumes and candy. So I...

Leading Psychologists Reveal Some of Their Own Inner Demons

Today, I recommend checking out the British Psychological Society's Research Digest. BPS asked over 20 of the world's leading psychologists to confess (in 150 words or less) to one nagging thing they still don't understand about themselves.Witty, charming, and by definition insightful, the psychologists' answers are well-worth reading. Richard Wiseman's piece wondering where comedy comes from made me chuckle; Robert Plomin's thoughts on parenting and genetic...

Are Time-outs for Tots Conditional Love?

Recently, in the New York Times' science section and Motherlode blog, education writer Alfie Kohn argued that both praise and punishment are equally bad for kids. Essentially his point was that praise and punishment both teach a child that our love for them is conditional – we only care for them when they succeed and stay out of trouble. Accordingly, Kohn thinks that parents should not praise or punish their kids. From no dessert to time-outs and groundings, "What a good job!" and...

The Problem with Teaching Kids about Stranger Danger

On Saturday, The New York Times ran a thoughtful piece by Jan Hoffman about whether kids can walk to school by themselves. In the US, just 13% of kids are walking or biking to school, down from 41% in 1969. (That drop, as steep as it is, is nothing compared to what's happened in the UK: Gill Valentine found that, in 1971, 80% of British children were responsible for getting themselves to school. By 1990, that figure was just 9%.)Hoffman took pains to show both sides of this agonizing issue...

Tell Them, 'You're Acting Obama' (A personal essay)

, I've been thinking about a study published in Psychological ScienceUniversity of Michigan researchers lead by Dr. Daphna Oyserman presented black high-school students in Detroit with a color strip of browns and blacks. Then they asked the teens to choose which color on the strip most closely matched their skin tone. Then the teens had to answer a battery of questions on their academics and social behavior. The researchers then went to the schools, obtaining the kids' GPAs, and...

What Do Children Understand About God?

 AM Note: While I began this post with a personal anecdote, the remainder of the piece is based on the work of scientists studying child development. Because a few people have asked about citations, I'm including a few sources at the end of the piece; it's not a complete list of my reading on the topic, but it does include some of the key work. Every Sunday, you can find me in church. The only reasonI won't be there is if I'm sick or out of town. My particular church, a...