Category Archives: Research

The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds and how men get to speak while women stay silent

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The following are some thoughts after seeing the show:

I have just watched the Secret Life of 4 Year Olds which is based on observation over two weekends, each six months apart, observing children. The men with PhDs, who said they had never been able to listen to children like that before (this group of children wore microphones), were the only ones who commented on behaviour while the female teachers were not shown expressing any opinion even though they had a lot more contact with children this age. This felt one-sided. 

The children were fascinating but I won’t comment on their behaviour. 

Channel 4 describes the show as follows: 

 This documentary follows 10 four-year-olds as they meet at nursery, exploring how children make and break friendships, share, stand up for themselves, and find their place in a new social group.

Dr Paul Howard -Jones is from the University of Bristol and one of two educational neuroscientists who observe the children from behind the scenes by observing the action on monitors. The show cuts away at regular intervals to the two male scientists reacting to the children while watching them and listening on headphones. 

Jones said :”Even though I wasn’t interacting with the children, I found myself becoming incredibly involved, emotionally, in the narratives that were developing for each individual child.”

The other scientist was Dr Sam Wass from the Cognition and Brain Science Unit at Cambridge University.

The two women who do interact with the children are “highly trained teachers” and their profiles are not posted on the website and their opinions are not sought. 

 The questions I have about this show 

 1. How much of children’s  behaviour is copied from their carers? 

 2. How can the scientists draw conclusions from the children’s actions without seeing how their carers behave? 

3. Do the teachers agree with all the conclusions?

 4. what do the teachers have to add about individual children and group behaviour based on their experience and education?

5. What do they think about the limitations and benefits of filming  children over such short periods of time?

When common sense contradicts the news about depression

The big news in the news this week was that exercise doesn’t help depression after all. A research study, by the University of Bristol and UWE, with 361 participants found that there was no difference in depression alleviation between a group that exercised and a control group.

The BBC and the Guardian led with the idea that exercise is no help for depression. Neurobonkers took a look at the research and said the following:

Simply telling depressed people to exercise does not help relieve symptoms of depression

That seems to make more sense to me. When research suggests something that goes against common sense, there is usually something wrong with the research or with its interpretation. Here’s the quotation taken from the paper:

“The aspiration was for the participants to engage in moderate or vigorous activity for 150 minutes a week in bouts of at least 10 minutes, but if that seemed unrealistic then the facilitator encouraged any increase in physical activity, whatever the intensity. The intervention programme comprised an initial hour long face to face assessment session followed by two short telephone contacts, then a further face to face meeting for half an hour. Over the course of 6-8-months, the physical activity facilitator offered up to eight further telephone contacts and one more face to face half hour meeting.”

Chalder, M. Wiles, N. Campbell, J. Hollinghurst, S. Haase, A. Taylor, A. Fox, K. Costelloe, C. Searle, A. Baxter, H. Winder, R. Wright, C. Turner, K., & Calnan, M. Lawlor, D. Peters, T. Sharp, D. Montgomery, A. Lewis, G. (2012). Facilitated physical activity as a treatment for depressed adults: randomised controlled trial. BMJ, 344 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e2758

See Neurobonkers for the explanation.