October 09, 2007
Video Viewing Not Seen As Benefit For Baby Learning

Special videos not magic mental development tool for babies.

The Seattle team surveyed more than 1,000 families in February 2006 and found that infants between 8 and 16 months who regularly watched Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby videos knew substantially fewer words -- six to eight out of 90 -- than infants who did not watch them, according to parental reports. The deficit, which increased with each hour of video viewing, was not seen among babies who watched other programming, such as "Sesame Street" or "SpongeBob SquarePants" or adult shows such as "Oprah."

The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, is the first to examine the impact of videos that have been heavily promoted as educational, according to lead author Frederick J. Zimmerman, a University of Washington associate professor of public health and pediatrics. Zimmerman called the negative effect "large and significant" but said the study stopped short of establishing a causal connection.

I would expect babies to learn more from interacting with humans since interactions provide feedbacks on what they do.

What is striking to me about a story like this one is the lengths that some people will go to try to boost the mental development of little Johnnie and Jill. Imagine what parents will do once real mental boosting biotechnologies become available. A drug that boosts IQ by 10 points if taken for several years during childhood would be a big seller. But at least in some of the Western industrialized countries getting such drugs approved will be very difficult. The problem of how to prove safety is enormous. This leads me to expect bigger IQ boosts will happen in less developed countries which lack big drug regulatory agencies.

Much bigger IQ boosts will become available via genetic tinkering at the time of conception. The use of multiple embryos with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (aka PIGD or PGD) to choose the potentially smartest embryo will a face fewer regulatory obstacles than the use of gene therapy to modify embryo genes. But the latter will offer far greater potential for intellectual boosting once scientists identify all the genetic variations that influence intelligence and once embryo genetic engineering techniques become fairly mature and safe.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 October 09 05:21 PM  Brain Development

HellKaiserRyo said at October 9, 2007 6:03 PM:

Of course it will increase inequality if such technology is released on the free market. However, I support state-sponsored eugenic programs:

"Reflecting on Lee Silver's naive, and now frequently quoted, prediction that germinal choice will lead to a division between the genetic haves and have-nots. Adam Wolfson retorted in the Public Interest that "if genetic enhancement were to become possible, democratic publics would take to the streets with guns and knives before allow Silver's scenario to come to pass. The lower and middle classes insist that their children be provided with the same eugenic enhancements available to the children of the rich. In time, The U.S. government would subsidize eugenic programs, not to create an overclass but to preserve equality, to elevate everyone's natural endowments." The point of this book is to argue for precisely such a movement, a movement that progressives will be forced to embrace once they have exhausted the dead-end of bioLuddism."

Citzen Cyborg pg 133.

One can argue that state-sponsored eugenics is cost-effective: one can invoke studies that show that higher IQs are correlated to greater productivity. This would probably to more efficacious compared to Head Start. Moreover, we have a moral imperative to eliminate the suffering caused by low intelligence.

Nootropics and cybernetics implants are even better.

In Eugenics, Richard Lynn supports paying people in the $100k for sterilization (similar to Shockley's "Bonus 1000" plan for paying people $1k for every IQ point below 100. Inflation would now make it $10K for IQ point because Shockley's proposal was introduced a long time ago). He notes some problems with this proposal as some people will intentionally fail their IQ tests (unless they took the tests when they were children). Better to use the money on this type of program.

Soon, some people will ask Richard Lynn (hopefully he would use rejuvenation therapies) in an incredulous fashion: "What race differences?"

Rob said at October 9, 2007 6:14 PM:

G prize anyone? I'm in the process of writing a proposal.

tommy said at October 9, 2007 9:29 PM:

Videos might even be harmful. There is evidence that watching television at a young age increases the risk of ADHD.

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