Teenagers shape each other’s views on how risky a situation is

9 04 2015

Young adolescents’ judgements on how risky a situation might be are most influenced by what other teenagers think, while most other age groups are more influenced by adults’ views

 

Credit: Petr Kratochvil/public domain

Young adolescents’ judgements on how risky a situation might be are most influenced by what other teenagers think, while most other age groups are more influenced by adults’ views, finds new UCL research.

For the study, published in Psychological Science, 563 visitors to the London Science Museum were asked to rate the riskiness of everyday situations such as crossing a road on a red light or taking a shortcut through a dark alley. Ratings were given on a continuous scale from low to high risk, and children (aged 8-11) generally rated situations as more risky than all other age groups.

Participants were then told how other people, either teenagers or adults, had rated the same situations, before being asked to rate each situation again. These risk levels from ‘adults’ or ‘teenagers’ were in fact randomly generated.

The results showed that all age groups were socially influenced and changed their risk ratings in the direction of other people’s, but this social influence effect decreased with age. Most age groups adjusted their ratings more to conform to the ratings of adults than those of teenagers, except for young adolescents (aged 12-14).

“Young adolescents were more strongly influenced by other teenagers than by adults, suggesting that in early adolescence the opinions of other teenagers about risk matter more than the opinions of adults,” explains lead author Dr Lisa Knoll (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). “Our findings suggest that the target of public health interventions should be adolescent social norms, rather than simply focusing on the potential health risks associated with certain situations and choices.”

Risk ratings were given on a continuous low-high scale without numbers, however they were converted onto a 0-10 scale for the analysis. On average, the first ratings given by each age group were as follows:

  • Ages 8-11: 6.2
  • Ages 12-14: 5.6
  • Ages 15-18: 5.2
  • Ages 19-25: 5.1
  • Ages 26-59: 5.5

 

After seeing a randomly-generated ‘adult’ or ‘teenager’ rating on screen, the average change in participants’ risk ratings was dependent on their age group. Illustrative examples of the average changes in risk are given below:

  • Children aged 8-11: change 36% towards the adult rating, 31% towards the teenager rating.
  • Young adolescents aged 12-14: change 29% towards the teenager rating, 25% towards the adult rating.
  • Mid-adolescents aged 15-18: change 19% towards the adult rating, 17% towards the teenager rating.
  • Young adults aged 19-25: change 14% towards the adult rating, 11% towards the teenager rating.
  • Adults aged 26-59: change 8% towards the adult rating, 6% towards the teenager rating.

 

As people get older, they become more confident in their own judgement of risk and less swayed by other people,” says senior author Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience). “We know that adolescents are more likely to take risks when with peers than alone. Our study showed that young adolescents do not perceive situations as less risky than older age groups, but do tend to change their risk perception in the direction of the opinions of similar aged peers. So other teenagers’ opinions about risk seem to influence young adolescents into judging a situation as less risky than they originally thought it was.”

 

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Eurekalert.org [en línea] London (UK): eurekalert.org, 09 de abril de 2015 [ref. 27 de marzo de 2015] Disponible en Internet: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-03/ucl-tse032615.php



Dos apps para enseñar jugando a niños con autismo y Asperger

16 03 2015

Cuando decimos que internet ha cambiado de forma radical nuestras vidas, quizá muchos no se den cuenta de hasta qué punto. Ahora, gracias a la Medicina Móvil o mHealth, las apps pueden ayudar a muchas personas con otras capacidades y a enfermos en su día a día. Y no solo a ellos, sino también a padres y cuidadores.

Imagen | Erik Tjallinks

El autismo y el síndrome de Asperger son dos enfermedades que requieren cuidados delicados y especiales. Los desarrolladores se han puesto manos a la obra para ayudar a padres y cuidadores. Un ejemplo de ello es la Fundación Planeta Imaginario, con sede Barcelona, dedicada a atender a niños con trastorno generalizado del desarrollo y que ha apostado por el mundo de las apps para seguir innovando sus métodos. Recientemente ha presentado dos de sus ‘productos estrella’: una actualización de iSecuencias y AbaPlanet.

iSecuencias se basa en 100 escenas preprogramadas que permiten múltiples combinaciones de ejercicios con los que aprender estructuras básicas del lenguaje o percibir las emociones. Está especialmente diseñada para niños con síndrome de Asperger o autismo de alto funcionamiento. Víctor Rodríguez, director clínico de Planeta Imaginario, recuerda ahora su nacimiento, a finales de 2012.

Imagen de previsualización de YouTube

“La presentamos a un concurso de la Generalitat, Fundacio.cat, ¡y lo ganamos! El premio nos permitió crear iSecuencias 1.0 sin ningún gasto y poder lanzarla al mercado” dice Rodríguez. Actualmente, cuenta con más de 80.000 descargas y han recibido varios reconocimientos, “entre ellos a una de las 50 mejores apps en castellano relacionadas con salud”, otorgada por The App Date.

Tras el éxito de iSecuencias, querían más. Y ahí surgió AbaPlanet, “más especializada y completa”, que permite a grandes y pequeños trabajar con las formas de los objetos y el vocabulario más básico, clasificado en 18 categorías: vehículos, ropa, comida… La app se adapta al niño, ‘decidiendo’ los contenidos para trabajar según su ritmo de aprendizaje. Sirve tanto para trabajar en casa como en terapia. Así funciona uno de sus ejercicios: “El niño debe emparejar una imagen de un objeto (por ejemplo un zapato verde) con su igual o similar (con el zapato verde, o el zapato amarillo), de esta forma trabajamos una previa muy importante al lenguaje, que es el reconocimiento de objetos y la generalización”, afirma Rodríguez.

Imagen de previsualización de YouTube

Con ella, Planeta Imaginario quería “plasmar todo nuestro conocimiento, las bases del ABA (el análisis de conducta aplicado) y poder crear una herramienta que trabajase lo más parecido a cómo lo hacemos nosotros en nuestras sesiones con los niños”, explica Víctor. Su nivel de inteligencia es tal que sabe cuándo ha de ayudar al niño, qué tipo de sostén ofrecerle y cuándo retirárselo al haberse asegurado que ha aprendido bien la palabra.

Para el futuro buscan que sus apps den un paso más: “En adelante queremos seguir desarrollando módulos para la adquisición de habilidades verbales más complejas como acciones, colores, adverbios espaciales” y otras como la empatía.
El panorama mundial de aplicaciones para niños con autismo y síndrome de Asperger es atractivo, con numerosas herramientas disponibles, pero Rodríguez explica que aún queda mucho por hacer en España. Del mismo modo, padres y educadores se interesan cada vez más por el ecosistema, “conocen más y son más exigentes con lo que ofrecen dichas apps”, resalta.

Hace unos ocho años, a este psicólogo le decían “que las nuevas tecnologías, y sobre todo el mundo de las tablets iban a ser el futuro, y nos habían hablado de que en el tratamiento de niños con necesidades especiales podrían ser una herramienta diferenciadora. En ese momento creímos que aquella gente estaba loca… Y mira ahora. ¡Eran visionarios!”

 

El centro de competencia mHealth forma parte del Programa de Centros de Competencia Internacional (PCCI) de Mobile World Capital Barcelona. mHealth trabaja con un triple objetivo: identificar las oportunidades de la tecnología mobile en la provisión de servicios de salud, transformar los procesos y modelos sanitarios actuales e impulsar la interoperabilidad de los servicios de salud en el ámbito de las tecnologías móviles y la conectividad, construyendo los fundamentos que permitan integrar soluciones de salud móvil.

 

Mobile World Capital Barcelona es una fundación destinada a convertir la ciudad en un centro de referencia de las tecnologías móviles. Un lugar donde personas, empresas e instituciones trabajen de forma conjunta para aprovechar el potencial de las tecnologías móviles como un elemento para transformar la vida cotidiana y crear nuevas oportunidades de negocio. MWCB, a través de sus programas e iniciativas, es también un motor de desarrollo e internacionalización del tejido empresarial.

Mobileworldcapital.com [en línea] Barcelona (ESP): mobileworldcapital.com, 16 de marzo de 2015 [ref. 24 de febrero de 2015] Disponible en Internet: http://mobileworldcapital.com/es/913/



Dyslexia independent of IQ

11 12 2014

Brain-imaging study suggests that reading difficulties are the same regardless of overall intelligence — and that more children could benefit from support in school.

 

new brain-imaging study suggests that reading difficulties are the same regardless of overall intelligence. Photo: Patrick Gillooly

About 5 to 10 percent of American children are diagnosed as dyslexic. Historically, the label has been assigned to kids who are bright, even verbally articulate, but who struggle with reading — in short, whose high IQs mismatch their low reading scores. On the other hand, reading troubles in children with low IQs have traditionally been considered a byproduct of their general cognitive limitations, not a reading disorder in particular.

Now, a new brain-imaging study challenges this understanding of dyslexia. “We found that children who are poor readers have the same brain difficulty in processing the sounds of language whether they have a high or low IQ,” says John D. E. Gabrieli, MIT’s Grover Hermann Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Cognitive Neuroscience, who performed the study with Fumiko Hoeft and colleagues at the Stanford University School of Medicine; Charles Hulme at York University in the U.K.; and Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, also at MIT. “Reading difficulty is independent of other cognitive abilities.”

The study, which is forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, could change how educators diagnose dyslexia, opening up reading support to more children who could benefit from it.

 

Rhymes and results

The researchers recruited 131 children, from 7 to 17 years old. According to a simple reading test and an IQ measure, each child was assigned to one of three groups: typical readers with typical IQs; poor readers with typical IQs; and poor readers with low IQs. All were shown pairs of words and asked to judge whether the words rhymed. (Rhymes are an effective way to probe dyslexics’ reading performance, since dyslexia is thought to entail difficulty connecting written words to sounds.) For some pairs, the researchers used words that rhyme but don’t share the same final letters — such as “bait” and “gate,” or “night” and “bite” — so that rhyme couldn’t be inferred simply from spelling. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers observed the activity in six brain regions known to be important for reading.

The results? Neural activity in the two groups of poor readers was indistinguishable. “The brain patterns could not have been more similar, whether the child had a high or low IQ,” Gabrieli says. Poor readers of all IQ levels showed significantly less brain activity in the six observed areas than typical readers, suggesting that reading difficulty is due to the same underlying neural mechanism, regardless of general cognitive ability.

 

Ditching diagnostic discrimination

The findings could have an important impact on both diagnosis and education for kids who struggle to read. Currently, Gabrieli says, many public school systems still require that a child have an otherwise normal IQ score to receive a diagnosis of dyslexia — essentially, that the label be reserved for children with a “reading difficulty that can’t be explained by anything else,” he says. But the new study suggests that even children with low IQ scores might benefit from treatment specific to dyslexia.

Jack Fletcher, a professor of psychology at the University of Houston Texas Medical Center Annex, says the study “adds to the evidence against” the notion that reading difficulty should be chalked up to general intellectual limitations in children with lower-than-average IQs. “Poor reading is poor reading,” he says. “IQ discrepancy doesn’t make much difference.”

Gabrieli, who says he hopes the new results will encourage educators to offer reading support to more struggling students, stresses the importance of diagnosing dyslexia and other behavioral disorders sooner rather than later. “Now, you basically diagnose dyslexia when a child seems miserable in school,” he says. “Maybe you could intervene before they ever get that way.”

 

 Emily Finn, MIT News Office

 

 

Newsoffice.mit.edu [en línea] Cambridge, MA (USA): newsoffice.mit.edu, 11 de diciembre de 2014 [ref. 23 de septiembre de 2011] Disponible en Internet: http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2011/dyslexia-iq-0923