Kiwi Polemicist

March 26, 2009

• Teenagers aren’t dumber than preschoolers

The comments button is at the bottom right of this post.

This is from Sideswipe:

Why are teenagers so lousy at chores? A University of Minnesota researcher says they have “cognitive limitations”. [Teenagers’] brains can’t multitask as well as their parents … The part of the brain responsible for multitasking continues to develop until late adolescence, with cells making connections even after some children are old enough to drive, according to a new study in Child Development. The frontal cortex figures out (or doesn’t) what to do when a person is asked to juggle multiple pieces of information. Imagine, then, how “make your bed and bring the laundry down” might befuddle a 13-year-old. (Source: Neatorama.com)

So I went to Neatorama, which had a link to what appears to be the original article at LiveScience. Before describing the research the article starts with

Finally researchers have come up with a reason other than pure laziness for why teenagers can’t shower and brush their teeth or unload the dishwasher and wipe down the counter.

Blame it on “cognitive limitations.” Their brains can’t multitask as well as those of the taskmasters.

Trust, however, that they’ll grow out of it.

The part of the brain responsible for multitasking continues to develop until late adolescence, with cells making connections even after some children are old enough to drive, according to a new study in the May/June issue of the journal Child Development.

The frontal cortex, which starts just behind the eyes and goes back almost to the ears, figures out (or doesn’t) what to do when a person is asked to juggle multiple pieces of information. Imagine, then, how “make your bed and bring the laundry down” might befuddle a 13-year-old.

As far as I can tell the line “Imagine, then, how “make your bed and bring the laundry down” might befuddle a 13-year-old” is not from the researchers at all, it’s just a snappy line made up by LiveScience.

It is common these days for people to justify laziness and disobedience amongst children (“Johnny has Oppositional Defiance Disorder” Translation: Johnny has been raised to be a disobedient brat) by giving a medical reason for such character flaws. LiveScience does this and Sideswipe perpetuates the myth: Sideswipe needs to be more careful in future.

I personally know preschoolers that are capable of following instructions far more complex than “make your bed and bring the laundry down”. It’s a matter of training their minds: I also know a 12-month-old who has been trained to pick up toys and put them in a box. Preschoolers weren’t dumber than teenagers when I last checked.

Related post: Mother expects police to control her 10 year old son

What do you think about the points that I have raised here?

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