A Heads Up To Those Wanting Smarter Children

Sometimes you do things to make them stupid:

Recent research from discipline and domestic violence expert Murray Straus, a professor of sociology and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire

The results of a survey of more than 17,000 university students from 32 countries “show that the higher the percent of parents who used corporal punishment, the lower the national average IQ,” Straus wrote in his presentation.

In looking at spanking just in the United States, Straus and a fellow researcher reviewed data on IQ scores from 806 children between 2 and 4 years old and another 704 kids aged 5 to 9.

When their IQs were tested again four years later, children in the younger group who were not spanked scored five points higher, on average, than did children who had been spanked. In the group of older children, spanking resulted in an average loss of 2.8 points.

“How often parents spanked made a difference,” Straus said in a news release from the university. “The more spanking, the slower the development of the child’s mental ability. But even small amounts of spanking made a difference.”

Sometimes it’s self confidence:

A new study of thousands of twins suggests that intellectual confidence is genetically inherited, and independent from actual intelligence.

Moreover, these genetic differences predict grades in school, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a psychologist at Goldsmiths University in London, whose team found that 7- to 10-year-old children who achieved the best marks in school tended to rate their own abilities highly, even after accounting for differences due to intelligence and environment.

Most of these researchers assumed that environmental factors – the influence of parents, teachers and friends – explained why some students think more of their abilities than others.

That’s only partially true, says Chamorro-Premuzic. About half of differences in children’s self-perceived abilities can be explained by environment. The other half seems to be genetic. For comparison, genes can explain about 80 per cent of the differences in height.

Sometimes it’s down to genes:

Chun-Yen Chang, an education researcher at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei led this study

Taiwanese teens with a particular mutation in a gene called COMT scored significantly lower on a national placement exam, compared with students who had other versions of this gene.


Alternatively, the results could be a statistical fluke, resulting from a small sample. “This is very common among these kinds of studies because the genetic effects on cognition are so tiny that you need perhaps thousands of people to get a good estimate of the effect,” she says.

Stephen Wiltshire: Gallery of Drawings

Stephen Wiltshire has autism. He also has the ability to view a cityscape once and then recreate it by drawing it, in scale, using only his memory as a reference.

His work can be found on his Web Page.

I can honestly say his drawings are amazing. But are they truly creative? Or is he merely making a detailed record of something he has seen? Technical proficiency is different from creativity. Both are admirable.  But true genius requires both in some measure.

From a physiological standpoint, I find it interesting that the brain records this information and it is available at any time for examination. This occurs in everyone, even people without autism. There are people, like Jill Price, who are perfectly normal people excepting their ability to remember literally detail of their lives.

Eventually we may discover a way to “switch” the ability on and off at will.

Should I be thrilled or horrified at the thought?


New Scientist: How your brain creates the 4th dimension.

Here is an interesting article from New Scientist on how we experience time.  But it has wider implications for events some consider mysterious or “impossible”.

This article makes it clear that time and the things that happen in it are constructions of a perception of continuity.

The article discusses studies that consciously alter the subjects sense of time (and by default body and spatial awareness) and links those results to perceptual “diseases” like schizophrenia.

The larger ideas that I find most intriguing: What if you are not wired the same as a majority of the population? What if you process the various data packets or “blocks” more quickly or more thoroughly than “average”. Could it be that you have a more conscious access to information that others lack the mental capacity to process?