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?"

Best of NurtureShock / Research Blogging Awards Nominee

If you are new to our work, there is a list of some of our favorite posts on this page (in the lower right column), and we can't resist sharing some others that we'd love you to take a look at – posts you might have missed along the way.

Some Kids Are Never Spanked - Do They Turn Out Better?

For decades, research on spanking was challenged by the lack of a control group to compare against - almost all kids (90+%) had been spanked at least once, at some time in their early lives. New research shows that now up to 25% of kids are never spanked, so it's a fair question: How are they turning out? Are they turning out better? Surprisingly, they're not.  In NurtureShock, we described some extensive cross-ethnic and international research on spanking by Drs. Jennifer Lansford...

Can You Never Tell a Child She's Smart?

Ultimately, we want kids to believe they can get good at skills and talents if they practice and try hard. We want them to be persistent in the face of early difficulty. The work by psychologist Carol Dweck and others suggests that this adaptive mindset is dramatically a function of the praise kids hear. If you've heard this research, you know the new rules: praise the process, not the person. Avoiding suggesting that success is due to innate qualities. Instead, steer the child's attention to...

This is Your Brain on a Test

  This is a picture of a Quick-Cap, which measures electrical activity on the surface of the scalp. While it looks like something out of a futuristic movie about thought control, it's actually quite comfortable and unobtrusive. While it's not nearly as precise as a fMRI, electroencephalography (EEG) is much easier to use and drastically cheaper; the cap does a decent job of registering which regions of the brain are firing moment to moment. Carol Dweck and Jennifer Mangels had Columbia...

The Downside of Always Telling Kids to Work Harder

It's now a famous construct: when we praise children for being smart, we are indirectly teaching them that success is due to their innate intelligence. They become fixated on "looking smart," and when they run into difficulty, they privately conclude that they're simply not smart enough. They don't have what it takes after all.The solution, according to Carol Dweck, is to praise them for their hard work. Focusing on effort gives children a variable they can control, dialing it up when...

Is the Brain Like a Muscle, Really?

Back in 2007, Ashley and I reported on the science of praise for New York magazine, highlighting in particular the body of work by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dweck had done studies for over a decade – and we covered them all – including a brand new semester-long intervention that had been conducted with Lisa Blackwell at Life Sciences Secondary School in East Harlem. Life Sciences is a health-science magnet school with high aspirations but 700 students whose main attributes are being predominantly...

Do Your Kids Know How to Fight?

My kids get stressed out from social conflict. Each has a distinctly different style of coping. Our son's a retreater. "We're not friends anymore," my son says about one of his best friends, whenever his feelings get hurt. Even with me, when he's upset, he runs from the house and down the block for awhile.Our daughter's a threatener. When she's mad or embarrassed, she threatens. She's not looking for a solution; she's hoping we'll back down if she makes her threat big enough.One of the most...

The Rocky Science of Good Marriages

Last weekend, Elizabeth Weil's New York Times Magazine story detailed her marriage to Dan Duane, and told of their many year-long adventures with self-improvement gurus in hopes of making their marriage better. During one phase of this venture, the couple attempt to become better communicators. Inevitably, she mentions one of the most famous marriage scientists of all, Dr. John Gottman. "John Gottman, in his Love Lab in Seattle, claims that he can analyze a conversation between spouses and...

Do Disney Princesses Make Young Girls Obsessed With Thinness?

My 5-year-old daughter is excited to see The Princess and the Frog, Disney's new movie being released nationwide next weekend. Here's how I'd rank her reasons for being excited:    * There's popcorn at theaters, in huge quantities;    * The movie's about a princess;     * The princess is African-American; and    * The movie is set in New Orleans, where my wife's family is from.I know many parents won't overtly discuss  No. 3 with their daughters, figuring the movie's focus on an...

What Are 'Good Risks' for Maturing Children?

Yesterday, my 8.5-year-old son gave me a hug and told me I was the best dad in the whole world. We were just out for a walk with the family – I hadn't bribed him at all. He was just feeling love. But an hour earlier, he'd hated my guts. Apparently, I hadn't "saved" his progress through a game he'd been playing on my iTouch. His bedtime the night before had forced him to pause the game halfway through, and he had (at that point) a perfect score. Not realizing this, I'd closed the app and...

A Follow Up on Gratitude & Teens

On Tuesday, we wrote  about Jeff Froh's research on kids and gratitude – how it was hard for kids to feel grateful to people when they were still trying to develop their sense of independence. It may be that gratitude and independence are just diametrically opposed.  Trying to tease out that idea a bit more, made me think further about a conversation I had with Froh and a clinician, following a presentation by Froh at a conference in Denver. After Froh's lecture, a clinician who...

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...

How Not to Helicopter

I've never bought macrobiotic cupcakes or hypoallergenic socks. Nor have I hired a tutor for pencil-holding deficiency, or put covers on the stove knobs, or used a leash on a toddler to be safe in a busy airport. At the grocery store, my kids are often in other aisles, but they've never felt lost. When they were babies, we weren't scared to leave them with babysitters. Their preschool didn't teach Mandarin, nor even worry about teaching them to read. Nor have I ever questioned a teacher about...

At What Age Do You No Longer Have to Check your Children's Homework?

Every Tuesday, my 3rd grader has a spelling test for twenty new vocabulary words. Driving him to school, I usually check in – "do you need any review for your test today?" There's time on the drive to have him spell them out, if necessary. The relevant question is, can I trust his answer? In NurtureShock, we wrote: "Kids who are doing well in school know it; when they write down their answer, they know whether or not their answer is correct. They have a subtle sense, a recognition of whether...

Is Fantasy Too Uncool for Middle Childhood?

One of the dimensions of children I'm fascinated with is the role of fantasy, and how it finds outlets during the middle phases of childhood. During early childhood, fantasy is expressed actively, through role-playing in pretend scenarios. The entire body is involved, and kids share authorship in the scenario and how it unfolds. It's immersive and social, and often the more fantastical the better. However, this kind of shared pretend fantasy play is so closely linked with early childhood that...

What If Colleges Had Lower Standards for Boys to Achieve Gender Balance?

Earlier this week, NPR's Claudio Sanchez reported that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is taking a year to investigate college admissions, to find out if admissions departments are discriminating in favor of boys to achieve gender balance. This investigation will start with a subpoena for admissions records from a dozen (unnamed) public and private universities. They're unlikely to find any overt discriminatory policies; the question is, will they be able to find a pattern that is itself...

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...

Don't Blame it on the Hormones

As I've been touring the country, whenever I discuss the science of adolescent behavior, audiences have often asked why I never mention the role of hormones.Ahh … hormones. In a typically-developing child, it starts with the adrenal glands, which begin increasing the secretion of androgens. These become the source material from which other steroids are constructed. The hypothalamus then takes charge, triggering a hormonal game of dominos. Pulsing shots of gonadrophin-releasing  hormone from...

Why Teenagers Are Growing Up So Slowly Today

Here's a Twilight Zone-type premise for you. What if surgeons never got to work on humans, they were instead just endlessly in training, cutting up cadavers? What if the same went for all adults – we only got to practice at simulated versions of our jobs? Lawyers only got to argue mock cases, for years and years. Plumbers only got to fix fake leaks in classrooms. Teachers only got to teach to videocameras, endlessly rehearsing for some far off future. Book writers like me never saw our work...

Can Happiness and Parenting Coexist?

A new analysis from the UK, just published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, concludes that kids make married couples happier. The first child only barely improves happiness, but the second child takes married parents to a new level of bliss. A third child makes them even happier. The curious thing is why this seemingly obvious finding is considered newsworthy. In what possible way is it pushing the frontiers of science?Well, it actually contradicts all the happiness research that's come...

Is the Candy Witch Coming to Your House?

When I was a kid, I wondered why the legend of The Great Pumpkin never caught on. Halloween was my favorite holiday, even though you didn't get the day off. It seemed like Halloween ought to have its own mystical being, like Christmas had Santa Claus and Easter had the Easter Bunny. I suppose Halloween had ghosts – but ghosts lacked specificity. So when I first watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," I figured the whole neighborhood would start buzzing about The Great Pumpkin,...

Are Disney's Current Claims for Baby Einstein Any Better?

We got a lot of letters yesterday like this one, from a mother in Texas:I am the mother of identical twin girls who are almost 11.  When they were infants, I would sit them in their bouncy seats and let them watch the 3 Baby Einstein VHS videos I bought online from Julie Aigner all those years ago (Baby Einstein, Baby Bach and Baby Mozart). My daughters were absolutely mesmerized by these videos.  It was the only break I got in my day to actually get something done when they were so small and...

Baby Einstein is Dead! Long Live Baby Einstein!

There was a lot of hoopla about Baby Einstein over the weekend. To understand it, you need a brief backstory – and then some deeper backstory, too.A month and a half ago, Disney announced in a press release that it was going to begin issuing refunds for its Baby Einstein videos: buyers of the DVDs can return them to Disney for $15.99 or exchange them for other products. However, nobody noticed – not until this past Friday, when the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCCF) issued its...

Why Private Schools are Missing the Best Kids

Hypothetically, let's say you ran a fancy private elementary school. Like other private schools in the region, you're competing to put out the brightest kids. And one of the ways you engineer this is through your admissions process – you try to select the kids who will get the most out of what your school has to offer. Kids who can handle the intellectual challenge, and who don't disrupt the class. So, if you're like other private schools, you bring the five-year-old applicants in for some...

In Defense of Children Behaving Badly

It's widely accepted in our society today that young kids' behavior is a window into their future. When they can't sit still in preschool, or they whack a friend, or they disobey─we recognize these as signs of portent. We all grasp that kids grow out of it, but it's often hard to keep that in mind in the moment. Our vigilance has been piqued by the ADHD phenomenon, which is both good and bad. It's good in the sense we want to spot hyperactivity early, in order to help kids who need it. It's...

A Conversation on Teaching Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom

After a week of debating with Daniel Goleman, we round up our thoughts. MERRYMAN: Goleman admitted that there was no real data to support his premise when he wrote his book in 1995 – that only now the science is starting to find out the truth. I'd expected to hear outrage from people who felt duped by Goleman. BRONSON: I suppose if Goleman had sold five million copies of a diet book, then he came out a decade later to admit that he'd just sort of cobbled a bunch of things together...

Mike Lanza: Emotional Intelligence is Better Learned Outdoors Than in Classrooms

Mike Lanza writes the Playborhood blog. Having followed our thread on the shoddy science for teaching Emotional Intelligence in classrooms, Lanza had an interesting take: if kids today are lacking in "emotional intelligence," it's not because schools have failed to teach kids to get along. Rather, he writes, it's because "Children in 21st Century America don't play outside on their own any more. Thus, they have far fewer opportunities to develop social skills, leadership skills, sense of...

How Biased Science led to Emotional Intelligence Curriculum in all UK Schools

In 2005, elementary schools in England were told by their Department of Education to include, in their curriculum, a program known as SEAL─which teaches children how to develop their social and emotional skills. In 2007, this mandate was extended to high schools─English children now get this curriculum every single year of their student life. It's nothing less than an official governmental national strategy for the future. SEAL's rocketing through British schools was really launched by...

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