Tag Archives: Bli

Freaky Friday: Bully Brains

by Richard

This is actually kind of scary. We know that being bullied makes for some big-time backlash for the young dudes who get bullied. What we didn’t know until recently is that being bullied also makes some physical changes in the brains of those kids who get bullied.

Yeah, that’s right. Young dudes who get bullied actually suffer permanent changes to the structure of their brains because of the bullying.

If we thought there was a reason to crack down on bullying in schools before, brother, you’d better believe there’s more of a reason now.

They lurk in hallways, bathrooms, around the next blind corner. But for the children they have routinely teased or tormented, bullies effectively live in the victims’ brains as well — and not just as a terrifying memory.

Preliminary evidence shows that bullying can produce signs of stress, cognitive deficits and mental-health problems.

Now University of Ottawa psychologist Tracy Vaillancourt and her colleagues at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario plan to scan the brains of teens who have been regularly humiliated and ostracized by their peers to look for structural differences compared with other children.

“We know there is a functional difference. We know their brains are acting differently, but we don’t know if it is structural as well,”said Vaillancourt, an expert in the biology of bullying.

According to Vaillancourt, she finds changes to the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory.

Bullied young dudes have already been found to score lower on tests that measure verbal memory and executive function, a set of skills needed to focus on a task and get the job done. Mental-health problems, such as depression, are also more common.

Come on, dudes. This is ridiculous. We need to have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying in schools that’s actually enforced all the time, every time.  Kids need to feel safe when they’re at school, trying to learn.

I mean, come on. How can you learn if you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, fearing the next push or the next time someone starts name calling?

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Freaky Friday: Verbal Sight

by Richard

It turns out that my wife, known to me as She Who Must Give Instructions — Twice, was right again. Being told what to look for can actually make it more likely that you’ll find it.

In a research study published today, scientists reveal that spoken language can alter your perception of the visible world.

The study in PLoS Onereveals that people given a series of visual tests had dramatically different scores when they were prompted first with a verbal cue. Asked to find a specific letter in a crowded picture, people were much more likely to find that letter when they were given the auditory cue “letter B” beforehand. Interestingly, being shown an image of the letter B before looking at the picture did not help them pick out the letter B any better than a control group could.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, we’ve all done word searches in elementary and middle school when the teachers were looking for a little time killer and didn’t want to have to do too much work. With every word search, there’s a word bank to show you the words for which you’re searching. I always found that I did better when I read the words out loud to myself, rather than just reading the words.

The interesting thing to me, though, is I always find words that aren’t in the word bank. A question of looking too hard or just not focusing on the task at hand? I always came down on the side of working too hard, but my teachers kept harping on focus. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Interestingly, although auditory verbal cues increased detection sensitivity, visual cues did not. This finding makes some sense when one considers that linguistic cues involve a non-overlapping format of sensory information that is globally statistically independent of the visual format of information in the detection task itself. By contrast, visual cues involve the same format of information as the detection task, and therefore do not provide converging sensory evidence from independent sources when the to-be-detected stimulus is presented.

Which means that there needs to be a combination of verbal and visual stimuli for this to work, to let you target what you’re looking for.

This has some pretty significant implications for parenting, dudes.

I mean, I know I’ve left notes for the little dudes before and returned to find absolutely nothing accomplished because they couldn’t find what I’d written about. After reading about this, I realized that the little dudes did do better when I gave them the note and also went over it with them.

Something to think about the next time Zippy the Monkey Boy tells me he can’t find that missing shoe when it’s sitting on the floor in the middle of the room.

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Not-So-Rosy Outlook

by Richard

There is something deeply wrong with so-called child-rearing expert and syndicated columnist John Rosemond. (Hence the title. It were a punne, or a play on words.) In his latest newspaper column, published on April 27 here in Charlotte, NC, Rosemond takes to task those fathers who commit the heinous sin of actually high-fiving their little dudes and dudettes.

No, seriously. He says that high-fiving the little dudes is a very bad, bad thing. Why, you whisper in shocked astonishment? Well, says he, because if you high five the little dudes, you’re forfeiting your right to leadership over the young ‘uns. Again, yes, seriously. That is what he said.

. . . although this common practice is well-intentioned, it diminishes a child’s ability to view his father as an authority figure. Children need two L-words from their parents: love and leadership.

The high-fiving dad is a loving guy who has substituted relationship for leadership, a proposition that does not work in any leadership setting.”

Say what?

I do believe he’s seriously suggesting an either/or proposition here. Either you’re some remote, unapproachable leader of men (well, little dudes, but you get the idea) or you’re some kind of commie-symp wimp who wants to be all buddy-buddy with your progeny at the expense of showing them what a man really does.

Personally, I find this outrageous. This dude has some serious baggage in the brain if he really believes this is true. I’ve read Rosemond before and thought he’s had some good idea, but he’s really run off the rails here. I mean, take a look at this.

Providing encouragement, helping people reach higher, is characteristic of all good leaders. But effective leaders do so without crossing the line of relationship. In fact, encouragement is most effective coming from someone who is clearly your superior, not someone who is trying to be your buddy.

Whoa! Again, seriously? He really wants dads to hide up on a pedestal, deigning only to speak to the lowlies on special occasions? Wow!

A side note: As I was writing this post, I had the Rosemond article sitting beside my beloved MacBook Pro. I’d wandered off into the bathroom to brush my teeth (really) and was doing so when Zippy the Monkey Boy walked in. I turned to see what he wanted and he simply raised his hands for a high-five. I laughed, gave it to him and then asked if he’d read the article. Yep, he said. “What did you think about it?”

“I thought it was complete hokum,” said Zippy the Monkey Boy. “High-fiving is just another way of showing encouragement, sort of like shaking hands was for those old crusties.”

Then he melted my heart. “I think we’ve got a good relationship and I’ve got a good leader.” With that, he hitched up the shorts that were sliding off his butt and walked back out to make his lunch for school.

So, that’s one (extremely intelligent) little dude’s opinion. Let’s look at this a bit more.

I think Zippy the Monkey Boy is right. High-fiving has moved into the realm of everyday gestures in habited by the thumbs up, the handshake and the OK sign. It’s just something people do.

Rosemond’s problem with this, I think, comes from the fact that he’s from an older generation, one that had never heard of the high five until they were very set in their ways. He also seems to have a definition of leadership that excludes leadership by example. It seems to me that his vision of a family leader is one who is unimpeachably right, stern while giving orders and more than a bit remote from those whom he is leading.

Whereas I see leadership in the family as consisting of setting a good example in ways both fun and somber, providing the right verbal and physical encouragement, and being there to support and guide the little dude or dudette when he or she runs into problems.

The one thing we agree on here is that all dads should show and give their love to the little dudes. That’s something I think we can all agree on.

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