No change for a century – children’s backgrounds still predict the same educational outcomes

No change for a century – children’s backgrounds still predict the same educational outcomes

learning education brain

Educational opportunities have changed dramatically for children over the last century – schools have changed, and college and university admissions have grown. Or so we might think at least.

But according to a study out of the University of York, that is not the case. They analysed data from 92,000 students between 1921 and 2011 and they found that the achievement gap between those from impoverished backgrounds has remained stagnant over this 90-year period.

Part of the reason for this is this gap that already exists on entering school. This means that although there may be greater learning opportunities, they cannot take advantage of it.

Focusing on equal opportunities is therefore one thing, but ensuring that those who really need the support at critical times, seems to be much more important.

Sophie von Stumm, Sophie Nicole Cave, Paul Wakeling. 
Persistent association between family socioeconomic status and primary school performance in Britain over 95 years
npj Science of Learning, 2022; 7 (1)
DOI: 10.1038/s41539-022-00120-3

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Behaviour at eight helps predict midlife health behaviours

Behaviour at eight helps predict midlife health behaviours

children health brain

A long-term study in Finland has tracked children from the age of eight until the age of 50 and a new analysis of the data, just published, has looked at some of the correlations between socioemotional behaviour in childhood and later life achievement and health behaviours.

There are a number of interesting correlations which have also been supported by other studies. The one is that well-controlled behaviour in childhood predicted more physical activity in middle age. This is probably due to being more conscientious and structured and being able to make and stick to exercise plans.

Another correlation was that social activity in childhood predicted higher alcohol consumption and smoking in adulthood. This is most likely through being in more social situations – many of these are associated with drinking alcohol and also smoking with peers.

There was also a correlation to educational achievement with well-controlled behaviours in childhood predicting, to a degree, educational attainment. But similarly higher educational attainment was also related to less alcohol consumption and less smoking. It should be noted that some of these showed differences to boys and girls.

Though this may sound like it is deterministic i.e. if you are well-structured in childhood, life will be good and alternatively, it will not be. The effect sizes are generally small, and, for example, there was no correlation found for BMI at age 50.

So, behaviours and personality at age eight can give an indication of future life trajectories but this indication is only small and other factors will play a much larger role.

Tiia Kekäläinen, Jenni Karvonen, Timo Törmäkangas, Lea Pulkkinen, Katja Kokko. 
Pathways from childhood socioemotional characteristics and cognitive skills to midlife health behaviours
Psychology & Health, 2022; 1
DOI: 10.1080/08870446.2022.2041639

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Psychedelics and consciousness

Psychedelics and consciousness

brain psychedelics consciousness

Psychedelics change our conscious experience of the world – that is part of their attraction. Now a new study out of John Hopkins Medicine has analysed data on attributions of consciousness to other animals and innate objects by those using psychedelics and how this changes over time.

The study analysed data from 1,606 people who had had a belief-changing psychedelic experience. What they noticed was a large increase in attributions of consciousness to other animals, such as insects, but also to plants, inanimate natural objects, and inanimate manmade objects. Not surprisingly the largest consciousness attribution was for animals, e.g. 57% attributed consciousness to insects compare to only 15% with inanimate manmade objects.

What is surprising is that these changes persisted over time with the average experience being 8 years previously. This shows that part of the experience of these psychedelics and in line with descriptions of the impacts (of the world coming to life) is related to attributions of consciousness.

Of note is that this can change with a single psychedelic experience!

Sandeep M. Nayak, Roland R. Griffiths.
A Single Belief-Changing Psychedelic Experience Is Associated With Increased Attribution of Consciousness to Living and Non-living Entities
Frontiers in Psychology, 2022; 13
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.852248

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Lower smartphone usage increases wellbeing

Lower smartphone usage increases wellbeing

smartphone wellbeing brain

So much has been said about smartphone usage in modern times. This ranges from some who say that they are destroying our brain to others who see they benefit our cognition by outsourcing cognitive heavy tasks like remembering lists of phone numbers – thereby freeing up memory storage for other stuff.

A bunch of research does point to there being connections between smartphone usage and a decrease in wellbeing and this is what researchers at Ruhr-University Bochum wanted to know more about.

They recruited 619 people and they were randomly assigned to three groups.

    • One group abstained from any smartphone usage for 7 days.
    • The second group reduced their smartphone usage by one hour per day.
    • The third group carried on as usual.

The then followed up one month and four months later checking with continued smartphone usage and health and wellbeing questions also. What did they find?

Those who reduced smartphone usage had better health and well-being, including external measures such as how much they exercised or smoked. This effect could be measured after four months. However, what was interesting was that the group that reduced smartphone usage rather than abstained showed the largest and most stable results.

So, it appears that there is a sweet spot and reducing smartphone usage only, is the best strategy for higher health and well-being!



Julia Brailovskaia, Jasmin Delveaux, Julia John, Vanessa Wicker, Alina Noveski, Seokyoung Kim, Holger Schillack, Jürgen Margraf. 
Finding the “sweet spot” of smartphone use: Reduction or abstinence to increase well-being and healthy lifestyle?! An experimental intervention study.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 2022
DOI: 10.1037/xap0000430

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Modesty preferred for cooperative teams

Modesty preferred for cooperative teams

Positive team coffee break In an age where it appears that many people are vying for self-esteem especially through social media, this research is interesting. Particularly in business contexts where cooperation is king.

Research has previously shown that appearing to be wealthy increases others’ perceptions of intelligence and competence – yep that is right. So, we may assume that increasing the perception of wealth – or socio-economic status as the researchers like to call it – may benefit you in many ways particularly in the business world.

However, this research lead by Shalena Srna, PhD of Michigan’s Ross School of Business conducted a series of experiments (six in total) exploring people’s attitudes to shows of wealth in social media posts. In the first, carefully constructed posts with the same content but with differing content on status symbols of wealth were added. Those with higher status symbols were less likely to be selected to be a part of a cooperative group. They were also considered more self-interested and selfish – obviously not good for a cooperative group.

In another experiment participants were asked to dress for a social profile post and were given a selection of clothing including expensive brands – those that were told they were trying to be selected to be part of a cooperative group intuitively chose not to wear the expensive brand clothing. This suggests that we are instinctively attuned to this aspect of status and cooperation.

So, the key take way is that we are finely attuned to status and with this comes a set of assumptions, in certain circumstances this may be positive but in other it may be negative. When it comes to cooperative teams – essential in business, it may be best to appear, and be, more modest


Shalena Srna, Alixandra Barasch, Deborah A. Small. 
On the value of modesty: How signals of status undermine cooperation.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2022
DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000303

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