How children watch Sesame Street reveals intellectual skills

comment   | print |

The way your children absorb information from the television program Sesame street could reveal how well developed they are intellectually, according to a novel new study.

The study, which used special equipment to examine children’s thought patterns while watching the program, has helped scientists to better understand children’s intellectual development.


Funded by the US National Institutes of Health and the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the study has been published in the January issue of the journal PLoS Biology.

It focussed on how individual children’s brains responded to the material in Sesame Street, showing that the brains of some children were able to respond more like the brains of adults. These children were subsequently shown to perform better on intellectual tests.

Lead author Jessica Cantlon, an assistant professor in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester in New York, said: "It’s a step in the direction toward understanding what typical brain development looks like and predicting what might be going wrong."

She said the research made it possible to predict how well specific children will learn things such as maths and eventually to establish what is going wrong with children who are having trouble.

"It could be something wrong with their concept of numbers, or that there’s something more generally wrong – a kind of memory or attention impairment," she said. "You could use brain activity as another tool to see what’s going wrong."

An associate professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, neuroscientist Daniel Ansari, welcomed the research as a breakthrough.

"We can use this to understand how children approach these inputs, what kind of information they [pay attention] to," he said.

Developmental cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, Timothy Brown, said the findings don’t say anything specifically about "Sesame Street" but about how kids think. He said the study "suggests that the kids who did the best were able to focus the most, and are probably better at that in general".

He said that the study confirmed that children who are better at [focusing] in general are better at acquiring learned academic skills, because doing so requires attention, concentration and mental effort.

"However, the study is also novel in its use of more fluid, naturalistic, ‘real-world’ visual stimuli," he said, "which is innovative and important for advancing research on human brain development."


MORE ON THESE TOPICS | brain development, children, learning

This article is published by William West and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

comments powered by Disqus

Family Edge looks at news and trends affecting the family in the light of human dignity. Our focus is the inspiring, creative, humorous, annoying, ridiculous, and dangerous ideas in the evening news. Send tips and brainwaves to the editor, Tamara Rajakariar, at tamara.rajakariar@

rss FamilyEdge RSS feed

Follow MercatorNet
subscribe to newsletter
Sections and Blogs
Family Edge
Sheila Reports
Reading Matters
Demography Is Destiny
Conniptions (the editorial)
contact us
our ideals
our People
Mercator who?
partner sites
audited accounts
advice for writers
New Media Foundation
Suite 12A, Level 2
5 George Street
North Strathfield NSW 2137
+61 2 8005 8605
skype: mercatornet
© New Media Foundation 2016 | powered by Encyclomedia | designed by Elleston