Category Archives: Media literacy

Funny on Sunday: live the moment…

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Please look up? Is your tech behavior causing your child to misbehave?

A new study by researchers from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Illinois State University suggests that even in low amounts, interruptions to parent-child time caused by digital technology are associated with greater child behavior problems.

About half of parents reported that technology interrupted time with their children three or more times on a typical day. Even in low amounts, interruptions to parent-child time caused by digital technology are associated with greater child behavior problems.

Feeling bad yet? I have some good news: you can argue that this study is rather small – it is. And in court the evidence would be called rather circumstantial (and correlational). Still, the study seems to be a nice starting point for further research.

Still, read the press release:

Those are often on the list of reasons parents mention if their child whines, has tantrums or acts out.

Researchers are now asking if such negative behaviors could be related to something else: parents spending too much time on their smartphones or tablets.

A small study from University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Illinois State University found that heavy digital technology use by parents could be associated with child behavior issues. The findings were published in the May 2017 online issue of Child Development.

Researchers analyzed surveys completed separately by both mothers and fathers from 170 two-parent households. Mothers and fathers were asked about their use of smartphones, tablets, laptops and other technology — and how the devices disrupted family time (a disturbance that lead author Brandon T. McDaniel coins ‘technoference.’) Interruptions could be as simple as checking phone messages during mealtime, playtime and routine activities or conversations with their children.

Might a few stolen moments used to check a couple text messages have a deeper effect?

While more research is needed, the study suggests it might: Even low or seemingly normal amounts of tech-related interruption were associated with greater child behavior problems, such as oversensitivity, hot tempers, hyperactivity and whining.

“This was a cross-sectional study, so we can’t assume a direct connection between parents’ technology use and child behavior but these findings help us better understand the relationship,” says senior author Jenny Radesky, M.D., a child behavior expert and pediatrician at Mott. “It’s also possible that parents of children with behavioral difficulties are more likely to withdraw or de-stress with technology during times with their child.”

But she adds “We know that parents’ responsiveness to their kids changes when they are using mobile technology and that their device use may be associated with less-than-ideal interactions with their children. It’s really difficult to toggle attention between all of the important and attention-grabbing information contained in these devices, with social and emotional information from our children, and process them both effectively at the same time.”

McDaniel, who designed and carried out the study, says researchers hope to learn more about the impact of increasing digital technology use on families and children.

“Research on the potential impact of this exposure lags far behind,” says McDaniel, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Illinois State University.

“It’s too early to draw implications that could be used in clinical practice but our findings contribute to growing literature showing an association between greater digital technology use and potential relationship dysfunction between parents and their children.”

Parents in the study were asked to rate how problematic their personal device use was based on how difficult it was for them to resist checking new messages, how frequently they worried about calls and texts and if they thought they used their phones too much.

Participants also were asked how often phones, tablets, computers and other devices diverted their attention when otherwise engaged with their children.

On average, mothers and fathers both perceived about two devices interfering in their interactions with their child at least once or more on a typical day. Mothers, however, seemed to perceive their phone use as more problematic than fathers did.

About half (48 percent) of parents reported technology interruptions three or more times on a typical day while 17 percent said it occurred once and 24 percent said it happened twice a day. Only 11 percent said no interruptions occurred.

Parents then rated child behavior issues within the past two months by answering questions about how often their children whined, sulked, easily got frustrated, had tantrums or showed signs of hyperactivity or restlessness.

The researchers controlled for multiple factors, such as parenting stress, depressive symptoms, income, parent education as well as co-parenting quality (how supportive partners were of each other in parenting their child), which has been shown to predict child behavior.

The study joins other research and advocacy groups contributing to a larger debate about technology and its effect on child development.

Some professional societies, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and Zero to Three, recommend “unplugged” family time. But they haven’t tested whether lessening or changing digital technology use during parent-child activities is associated with improved child behavior.

McDaniel and Radesky advise parents to try to carve out designated times to put away the devices and focus all attention on their kids.

Reserving certain times of the day or locations as being technology-free — such as mealtime or playtime right after work — may help ease family tensions caused by the modern blurring of outside worlds with home life, they say.

“Parents may find great benefits from being connected to the outside world through mobile technology, whether that’s work, social lives or keeping up with the news. It may not be realistic, nor is it necessary, to ban technology use all together at home,” Radesky says. “But setting boundaries can help parents keep smartphones and other mobile technology from interrupting quality time with their kids.”

Abstract of the study:

 Heavy parent digital technology use has been associated with suboptimal parent–child interactions, but no studies examine associations with child behavior. This study investigates whether parental problematic technology use is associated with technology-based interruptions in parent–child interactions, termed “technoference,” and whether technoference is associated with child behavior problems. Parent reports from 170 U.S. families (child Mage = 3.04 years) and actor–partner interdependence modeling showed that maternal and paternal problematic digital technology use predicted greater technoference in mother–child and father–child interactions; then, maternal technoference predicted both mothers’ and fathers’ reports of child externalizing and internalizing behaviors. Results suggest that technological interruptions are associated with child problem behaviors, but directionality and transactional processes should be examined in future longitudinal studies.

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How do kids and parents worry about privacy with internet-connected toys

Your daughters’ Barbie can be hacked to spy on your children. So, got you worried? Researchers have now conducted a new study that explores the attitudes and concerns of both parents and children who play with internet-connected toys. Through a series of in-depth interviews and observations, the researchers found that kids didn’t know their toys were recording their conversations, and parents generally worried about their children’s privacy when they played with the toys.

From the press release:

University of Washington researchers have conducted a new study that explores the attitudes and concerns of both parents and children who play with internet-connected toys. Through a series of in-depth interviews and observations, the researchers found that kids didn’t know their toys were recording their conversations, and parents generally worried about their children’s privacy when they played with the toys.

“These toys that can record and transmit are coming into a place that’s historically legally very well-protected ? the home,” said co-lead author Emily McReynolds, associate director of the UW’s Tech Policy Lab. “People have different perspectives about their own privacy, but it’s crystalized when you give a toy to a child.”

The researchers presented their paper May 10 at the CHI 2017 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

Though internet-connected toys have taken off commercially, their growth in the market has not been without security breaches and public scrutiny. VTech, a company that produces tablets for children, was storing personal data of more than 200,000 children when its database was hacked in 2015. Earlier this year, Germany banned the Cayla toy over fears that personal data could be stolen.

It’s within this landscape that the UW team sought to understand the privacy concerns and expectations kids and parents have for these types of toys.

The researchers conducted interviews with nine parent-child pairs, asking each of them questions ? ranging from whether a child liked the toy and would tell it a secret to whether a parent would buy the toy or share what their child said to it on social media.

They also observed the children, all aged 6 to 10, playing with Hello Barbie and CogniToys Dino. These toys were chosen for the study because they are among the industry leaders for their stated privacy measures. Hello Barbie, for example, has an extensive permissions process for parents when setting up the toy, and it has been complimented for its strong encryption practices.

The resulting paper highlights a wide selection of comments from kids and parents, then makes recommendations for toy designers and policymakers.

Most of the children participating in the study did not know the toys were recording their conversations. Additionally, the toys’ lifelike exteriors probably fueled the perception that they are trustworthy, the researchers said, whereas kids might not have the tendency to share secrets and personal information when communicating with similar tools not intended as toys, such as Siri and Alexa.

“The toys are a social agent where you might feel compelled to disclose things that you wouldn’t otherwise to a computer or cell phone. A toy has that social exterior which might fool you into being less secure on what you tell it,” said co-lead author Maya Cakmak, an assistant professor at the Allen School. “We have this concern for adults, and with children, they’re even more vulnerable.”

Some kids were troubled by the idea of their conversations being recorded. When one parent explained how the child’s conversation with the doll could end up being shared widely on the computer, the child responded: “That’s pretty scary.”

At minimum, toy designers should create a way for the devices to notify children when they are recording, the researchers said. Designers could consider recording notifications that are more humanlike, such as having Hello Barbie say, “I’ll remember everything you say to me” instead of a red recording light that might not make sense to a child in that context.

The study found that most parents were concerned about their child’s privacy when playing with the toys. They universally wanted parental controls such as the ability to disconnect Barbie from the internet or control the types of questions to which the toys will respond. The researchers recommend toy designers delete recordings after a week’s time, or give parents the ability to delete conversations permanently.

A recent UW study demonstrated that video recordings that are filtered to preserve privacy can still allow a tele-operated robot to perform useful tasks, such as organize objects on a table. This study also revealed that people are much less concerned about privacy ? even for sensitive items that could reveal financial or medical information ? when such filters are in place. Speech recordings on connected toys could similarly be filtered to remove identity information and encode the content of speech in less human-interpretable formats to preserve privacy, while still allowing the toy to respond intelligibly.

The researchers hope this initial look into the privacy concerns of parents and kids will continue to inform both privacy laws and toy designers, given that such devices will only continue to fill the market and home.

“It’s inevitable that kids’ toys, as with everything else in society, will have computers in them, so it’s important to design them with security measures in mind,” said co-lead author Franziska Roesner, a UW assistant professor at the Allen School. “I hope the security research community continues to study these specific user groups, like children, that we don’t necessarily study in-depth.”

Abstract of the study:

Hello Barbie, CogniToys Dino, and Amazon Echo are part of a new wave of connected toys and gadgets for the home that listen. Unlike the smartphone, these devices are always on, blending into the background until needed. We conducted interviews with parent-child pairs in which they interacted with Hello Barbie and CogniToys Dino, shedding light on children’s expectations of the toys’ “intelligence” and parents’ privacy concerns and expectations for parental controls. We find that children were often unaware that others might be able to hear what was said to the toy, and that some parents draw connections between the toys and similar tools not intended as toys (e.g., Siri, Alexa) with which their children already interact. Our findings illuminate people’s mental models and experiences with these emerging technologies and will help inform the future designs of interactive, connected toys and gadgets. We conclude with recommendations for designers and policy makers.

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Something to hang in every single classroom (and teachers room)

Found this via a retweet by Tom Bennett, read the full article here ($).

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Some good news? “Critical thinking instruction in humanities reduces belief in pseudoscience”

Sometimes it’s quite difficult for (educational) mythbusters: what if you only make it worse. There are some studies – also mentioned in our book – who say so. But this new study – although with a very specific group and with a rather small amount of participants – at least suggests there are opportunities to battle pseudoscience…

From the press release:

A recent study by North Carolina State University researchers finds that teaching critical thinking skills in a humanities course significantly reduces student beliefs in “pseudoscience” that is unsupported by facts.

“Given the national discussion of ‘fake news,’ it’s clear that critical thinking – and classes that teach critical thinking – are more important than ever,” says Anne McLaughlin, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the work.

“Fundamentally, we wanted to assess how intentional you have to be when teaching students critical thinking,” says Alicia McGill, an assistant professor of history at NC State and co-author of the paper. “We also wanted to explore how humanities classes can play a role and whether one can assess the extent to which critical thinking instruction actually results in improved critical thinking by students.

“This may be especially timely, because humanities courses give students tools they can use to assess qualitative data and sort through political rhetoric,” McGill says. “Humanities also offer us historical and cultural perspective that allow us to put current events into context.”

For this study, the researchers worked with 117 students in three different classes. Fifty-nine students were enrolled in a psychology research methods course, which taught statistics and study design, but did not specifically address critical thinking. The other 58 students were enrolled in one of two courses on historical frauds and mysteries – one of which included honors students, many of whom were majors in science, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

The psychology class served as a control group. The two history courses incorporated instruction explicitly designed to cultivate critical thinking skills. For example, students in the history courses were taught how to identify logical fallacies – statements that violate logical arguments, such as non sequiturs.

At the beginning of the semester, students in all three courses took a baseline assessment of their beliefs in pseudoscientific claims. The assessment used a scale from 1 (“I don’t believe at all.”) to 7 (“I strongly believe.”).

Some of the topics in the assessment, such as belief in Atlantis, were later addressed in the “historical frauds” course. Other topics, such as the belief that 9/11 was an “inside job,” were never addressed in the course. This allowed the researchers to determine the extent to which changes in student beliefs stemmed from specific facts discussed in class, versus changes in a student’s critical thinking skills.

At the end of the semester, students took the pseudoscience assessment again.

The control group students did not change their beliefs – but students in both history courses had lower beliefs in pseudoscience by the end of the semester.

Students in the history course for honors students decreased the most in their pseudoscientific beliefs; on average, student beliefs dropped an entire point on the belief scale for topics covered in class, and by 0.5 points on topics not covered in class. There were similar, but less pronounced, changes in the non-honors course.

“The change we see in these students is important, because beliefs are notoriously hard to change,” says McLaughlin. “And seeing students apply critical thinking skills to areas not covered in class is particularly significant and heartening.”

“It’s also important to note that these results stem from taking only one class,” McGill says. “Consistent efforts to teach critical thinking across multiple classes may well have more pronounced effects.

“This drives home the importance of teaching critical thinking, and the essential role that humanities can play in that process,” McGill says. “This is something that NC State is actively promoting as part of a universitywide focus on critical thinking development.”

The paper, “Explicitly teaching critical thinking skills in a history course,” was published March 20 in the journal Science & Education.

Abstract of the study:

Critical thinking skills are often assessed via student beliefs in non-scientific ways of thinking, (e.g, pseudoscience). Courses aimed at reducing such beliefs have been studied in the STEM fields with the most successful focusing on skeptical thinking. However, critical thinking is not unique to the sciences; it is crucial in the humanities and to historical thinking and analysis. We investigated the effects of a history course on epistemically unwarranted beliefs in two class sections. Beliefs were measured pre- and post-semester. Beliefs declined for history students compared to a control class and the effect was strongest for the honors section. This study provides evidence that a humanities education engenders critical thinking. Further, there may be individual differences in ability or preparedness in developing such skills, suggesting different foci for critical thinking coursework.

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Causal relation or correlation? Too much TV related to drops in school readiness

The amount of screen time for younger kids has been subject to many discussion, with the guidelines presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) often as an important element in it. While there are comments that the present guidelines aren’t that supported by science, this study seems to do so. But I beg to differ, as it seems that – as often is the case in such kind of studies – the researchers only found a correlation, not a causal relation. In fact: the study actually suggests an other possible explanation…

From the press release:

Watching television for more than a couple of hours a day is linked to lower school readiness skills in kindergartners, particularly among children from low-income families, finds a study by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and Université Sainte-Anne.

The findings, published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, reinforce the need for limits on screen time, such as those laid out by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

In its 2001 guidelines, the AAP recommended that children over the age of 2 watch no more than two hours of television per day. These guidelines, updated in October 2016, now recommend that children between 2 and 5 watch no more than one hour of television.

“Given that studies have reported that children often watch more than the recommended amount, and the current prevalence of technology such as smartphones and tablets, engaging in screen time may be more frequent now than ever before,” said Andrew Ribner, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Applied Psychology at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s lead author.

Research has shown that watching television is negatively associated with early academic skills, but little is known about how socioeconomic status influences television viewing and child development. In the current study, the researchers examined whether the negative relationship between watching television and school readiness varied by family income.

Ribner and his colleagues looked at data from 807 kindergartners of diverse backgrounds. Their parents reported family income, as well as the number of hours of television their children watch on a daily basis. Video game, tablet, and smartphone use were not included in the measurement.

Children were assessed using measures of math, knowledge of letters and words, and executive function – key cognitive and social-emotional competencies, including working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control, that are viewed as fundamental for school readiness.

The researchers found that the number of hours of television young children watch is related to decreases in their school readiness, particularly their math skills and executive function. This association was strongest when children watched more than two hours of television.

As family incomes decreased, the link between television watching and drops in school readiness grew, meaning children from low-income families are hurt more by watching too much television. Those at or near the poverty line (an annual income of around $21,200 for a family of four) saw the largest drop in school readiness when children watched more than two hours of television. A more modest drop was observed among middle-income families (measured as $74,200 per year for a family of four), while there was no link between school readiness and television viewing in high-income homes (measured as around $127,000 per year for a family of four).

Interestingly, while television viewing was negatively associated with math skills and executive function, a similar link was not found with letter and word knowledge. The researchers speculate that television programming, especially educational programs for children, may work to improve literacy among young children in ways that are not found in math.

While the study did not measure the type of content the children watched, nor the context of their television viewing, the researchers note that both may be relevant to their findings, particularly in understanding why more affluent families appeared to be protected from the decline in school readiness linked to too much television.

For instance, children in higher-income homes may be watching more educational programming and less entertainment, which has been found in earlier studies. In addition, more affluent parents may be more likely to watch television with their children – offering explanation and discussion that can promote understanding – based on having more time and resources.

“Our results suggest that the circumstances that surround child screen time can influence its detrimental effects on learning outcomes,” said Caroline Fitzpatrick of Canada’s Université Sainte-Anne, who is also an affiliate researcher at Concordia University and a coauthor on the study.

The researchers recommend that efforts be made by pediatricians and child care centers to reinforce the AAP guidelines and help parents limit the amount of television children watch to fewer than two hours a day.

Abstract of the study:

Objective: We examined whether the negative relation between television viewing that exceeds the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and school readiness varied by family income.

Methods: Data were collected from 807 children from diverse backgrounds. Parents reported hours of television viewing, as well as family income. Children were assessed using measures of math, knowledge of letters and words, and executive function (EF).

Results: Television viewing was negatively associated with math and EF but not with letter and word knowledge. An interaction between television viewing and family income indicated that the effect of television viewing in excess of the AAP recommended maximum had negative associations with math and EF that increased as a linear function of family income. Furthermore, EF partially mediated the relation between television viewing and math.

Conclusion: Television viewing is negatively associated with children’s school readiness skills, and this association increased as family income decreased. Active efforts to reinforce AAP guidelines to limit the amount of television children watch should be made, especially for children from middle- to lower-income families.

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Kind of logic, but important to repeat: kids want parental help with online risk, but fear parental freak outs

This study doesn’t say that much new, we’ve known this also from previous research. Still, the insights are too important not to be repeated and shared again: kids think that parents just don’t understand what it is like to be a teen in an internet-connected world and this lack of understanding may hinder the development of skills necessary to safely navigate online. Or more to the point: kids want to ask their parents for advice, but not so if they think they will get an angry mom or dad shouting ‘I told you so’. I haven’t been able to read the actual study, as it is something shared on a conference, so we’ll have to do with the press release.

From the press release:

In a study, teens rarely talked to their parents about potentially risky online experiences, according to Pamela Wisniewski, formerly a post-doctoral scholar in information sciences and technology, Penn State, and currently an assistant professor in computer science at the University of Central Florida. She added that parents and children often have much different perceptions of and reactions to the same online situations. Some of these situations may include cyberbullying, sexual exchanges and viewing inappropriate content online.

“There seems to be a disconnect between what types of situations teens experience every day and what types of experiences parents have online,” said Wisniewski. “Teens tended to be more nonchalant and say that the incident made them embarrassed, while parents, even though they were reporting more low-risk events, emoted much stronger feelings, becoming angry and scared. For teens, some felt these types of experiences were just par for the course.”

The researchers suggest that this disconnect may lead teens to refrain from talking about situations that may upset their parents.

“When you asked why teens didn’t talk to their parents, a lot of times they mention risky situations, which they didn’t think were a big deal, but they add that if they told their parents, they would just freak out and make things worse,” Wisniewski said.

She added that while overreacting may curb communication, parents should avoid acting dismissive when a teen does come to them with an issue.

“When teens actually talked to their parents about what had happened, they often wanted help understanding or navigating the situation, but parents tended to misinterpret their intent, not realizing that their teens were trying to open lines of communication,” said Wisniewski. “It seemed like a missed opportunity. One of the takeaways for parents, then, is that if their teen goes to them with something that they are experiencing online, parents might realize that there are likely other events that their teen doesn’t come to them about. If it’s important enough for the teen to bring up to the parent, it may be important enough to use as a teachable, yet nonjudgmental, moment.”

The researchers, who present their findings at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing today (Feb. 27), suggest that parental reactions — both over reactions or under reactions — may not just thwart teens from seeking their parents’ help with a current problem, but also diminish the teens’ ability to successfully navigate future online encounters that may be even more risky.

“Parental engagement can serve as teachable moments and increase the teens’ resilience in safely interacting online and in social media,” Wisniewski added.

A total of 136 participants — 68 parents and their teens — completed diaries about their online experiences during the study. The participants filled out a pre-survey, post-survey and eight weekly diary entries. Each week, parents and teens were expected to report on four potential types of online risks — information breaches, online harassment and bullying, sexual solicitations and exposure to explicit content — that they may have encountered during the week.

“The important point here is that the parent and the teen could both report on the same event, the teen could report on an event that the parent didn’t report on and the parent could report on an event that the teen didn’t report on,” said Wisniewski.

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Great on Sunday: the best letter to the NY Times in decades

Although my most read Funny on Sunday is about the current president of the US, it was my plan not to post jokes about Donald Trump anymore. But this letter by Demurs isn’t so much funny but just great.

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“How neuroscience can benefit the learning and performance of music” Really?

Whenever I see a title such as “How neuroscience can benefit the learning and performance of music” I end up with the same question: really.

Let’s dig in a bit deeper. In the press release there is written:

Inette Swart of North-West University, South Africa shows how incorporating training in psychology into the music education system could be beneficial, particularly to those learners who have experienced traumatic events.

Ok, but training in psychology is not really the same as neuroscience and what do traumatic events have to do with it?

Neuroscientific research indicates that the right hemisphere of the brain, where the earliest-forming parts of the developing self and identity originate, appears to contribute most to the emotional meaning of music. The highly impressionable and malleable right-brain is also where early traumatic experiences are imprinted.

Ok… getting a bit sceptic because this is being put way too blunt and my left-right brain myth detector starts ringing, but maybe wrongly as this is not really the same story. And the article is referring to Alan Schore who published quite a lot about this. I have to admit I’m no expert on where in the brain our trauma’s are located – any help welcome – but Schore also seems to be perpetuating the L-R myth too besides the right-brain-trauma-link.

But more important: why do we need to know this and how should we alter our teaching based on this insight?

Thus, teachers should consider the role of music in a learner’s life and use this to their advantage in the teaching strategy, Swart says. For learners who have suffered significant trauma, it is particularly important to understand what role music fulfils in their lives, what best motivates them, and how their goals and reasons for participation in music might differ from a teacher’s expectations of them.

Right. We can have a big discussion now if this is a pedagogical good idea, but let’s stick to the question: did we need the brain explanation for this? Imho, still: no.

While memory for music is acquired and assessed through many different neural pathways, the processing of information involves brain structures — most notably, the amygdala and hippocampus — that are also involved in processing memories of fear. Neurons that fire together form connections and are likely to be retrieved together once an associated memory is recalled. This process is important in the memorization of music and also has implications for consciously separating the experience of fear and fear memories from the experience of learning and performing music.

Yeah, ok, but what does this mean. No, really?

To reduce the chances of debilitating stage fright patterns becoming established in previously traumatized learners, music performance should be associated with the anticipation of positive experience, Swart suggests. Such learners may benefit from practicing the art of performing in environments where they feel relatively safe, before playing at more important concerts or competitions.

Oh, I see. But what about the amygdala and hippocampus? Btw, I knew this part already. No, really!

Inette Swart said: “Music has great potential for providing emotionally and relationally reparative experiences, particularly, but not exclusively, to previously disadvantaged learners. Facilitating neural change takes discipline, while intersubjective models of human behavior, such as those proposed by neuropsychoanalyst Dr. Allan Schore, have shown clearly that human actions and development do not occur in isolation. It is time that this discipline becomes a shared societal responsibility.”

So we end up with the message: if you have had a bad experience you may end up with stage fright so teachers need to make sure you have some positive experiences and everything we do happens in interaction with others.

Now, please tell me: where did we need the brain for this?

But maybe I’m a bit too harsh. This was only the press release, what about the scientific article? Well check the abstract and try to answer the question yourself:

As advancements in neuroscience increasingly illuminate the traditional understanding of the human mind, many of the new insights are also of relevance to musicians as well as to music pedagogy. Especially the greater understanding of how intersubjective processes are integral to the development of the right brain has shown how, according to the neuropsychoanalyst Allan Schore, right-brain models can bridge the fields of psychiatry, music and trauma. Following a short introduction, the article discusses the development of ego boundaries and their relevance to young aspiring musicians as well as the close relation to self-esteem. This is followed by a short explanation of the psychodynamic processes underlying interpersonal interaction and relation. Right-brain function in development and trauma is discussed and its links to music are highlighted; the issue of fear and learned helplessness in musicians is also considered briefly. A discussion on the impact of fear on musicians’ memory follows. The paper concludes by showing that, while brain pathology can be associated with creativity, creative processes in and of themselves are not pathological. Throughout, special reference is made to aspects that have particular relevance to previously disadvantaged music learners.

So we end up with a Journal of Music Research in Africa published by Routledge spreading insights about the brain and music that are… well probably wrong and selling us new stuff we actually already knew and where we don’t need the brain explanation for.

I don’t want to scapegoat mrs Swart who wrote the article. I only used her article to show something that I am seeing way too often. The only solution is just one question: do you need the brain for this claim?

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How a selfie can make you feel happier (study)

To many people selfies are sign of the present narcissism. And pictures like this don’t help it:

But this new study does give some consolation: regularly snapping selfies with your smartphone and sharing photos with your friends can help make you a happier person.

Wait, this is the opposite of the idea that social media can make you more depressed? Well, we already saw it is a bit more complicated than that. This new study is quite interesting and has both a lot of data and a very limited amount of people involved. The latter is the weakest element of this study, imho.

From the press release:

By conducting exercises via smartphone photo technology and gauging users’ psychological and emotional states, the researchers found that the daily taking and sharing of certain types of images can positively affect people. The results of the study out of UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences were published recently in the Psychology of Well-Being.

“Our research showed that practicing exercises that can promote happiness via smartphone picture taking and sharing can lead to increased positive feelings for those who engage in it,” said lead author Yu Chen, a postdoctoral scholar in UCI’s Department of Informatics. “This is particularly useful information for returning college students to be aware of, since they face many sources of pressure.”

These stressors — financial difficulties, being away from home for the first time, feelings of loneliness and isolation, and the rigors of coursework — can negatively impact students’ academic performance and lead to depression.

“The good news is that despite their susceptibility to strain, most college students constantly carry around a mobile device, which can be used for stress relief,” Chen said. “Added to that are many applications and social media tools that make it easy to produce and send images.”

The goal of the study, she said, was to help researchers understand the effects of photo taking on well-being in three areas: self-perception, in which people manipulated positive facial expressions; self-efficacy, in which they did things to make themselves happy; and pro-social, in which people did things to make others happy.

Chen and her colleagues designed and conducted a four-week study involving 41 college students. The subjects — 28 female and 13 male — were instructed to continue their normal day-to-day activities (going to class, doing schoolwork, meeting with friends, etc.) while taking part in the research.

But first each was invited to the informatics lab for an informal interview and to fill out a general questionnaire and consent form. The scientists helped students load a survey app onto their phones to document their moods during the first “control” week of the study. Participants used a different app to take photos and record their emotional states over the following three-week “intervention” phase.

Subjects reported their moods three times a day using the smartphone apps. In evening surveys, they were asked to provide details of any significant events that may have affected their emotions during the course of the day.

The project involved three types of photos to help the researchers determine how smiling, reflecting and giving to others might impact users’ moods. The first was a selfie, to be taken daily while smiling. The second was an image of something that made the photo taker happy. The third was a picture of something the photographer believed would bring happiness to another person (which was then sent to that person). Participants were randomly assigned to take photos of one type.

Researchers collected nearly 2,900 mood measurements during the study and found that subjects in all three groups experienced increased positive moods. Some participants in the selfie group reported becoming more confident and comfortable with their smiling photos over time. The students taking photos of objects that made them happy became more reflective and appreciative. And those who took photos to make others happy became calmer and said that the connection to their friends and family helped relieve stress.

“You see a lot of reports in the media about the negative impacts of technology use, and we look very carefully at these issues here at UCI,” said senior author Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics. “But there have been expanded efforts over the past decade to study what’s become known as ‘positive computing,’ and I think this study shows that sometimes our gadgets can offer benefits to users.”

Abstract of the study:

Background
With the increasing quality of smartphone cameras, taking photos has become ubiquitous. This paper investigates how smartphone photography can be leveraged to help individuals increase their positive affect.

Methods
Applying findings from positive psychology, we designed and conducted a 4-week study with 41 participants. Participants were instructed to take one photo every day in one of the following three conditions: a selfie photo with a smiling expression, a photo of something that would make oneself happy and a photo of something that would make another person happy.

Findings
After 3 weeks, participants’ positive affect in all conditions increased. Those who took photos to make others happy became much less aroused. Qualitative results showed that those in the selfie group observed changes in their smile over time; the group taking photos to improve their own affect became more reflective and those taking photos for others found that connecting with family members and friends helped to relieve stress.

Conclusions
The findings can offer insights for designers to create systems that enhance emotional well-being.

 

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