On April 23rd, 2018 we learned about

Testing if know-it-alls actually know more than the average person

Nothing elicits eye-rolling like a statement starting with “you know what your problem is…” Once someone crosses the line from confident to overconfident, it’s hard to feel anything but annoyed at what a speaker has to say. Rather dutifully, scientists posed an uncomfortable question though— what if know-it-alls, or those with “belief superiority,” truly deserved the praise they’d heap upon their own opinions? It wasn’t that scientists were looking to pat these folks on the back— they were characterized as people who already felt they knew more than other people, after all. The hope was that if know-it-alls actually did know more than their peers, then maybe we could all learn some of the techniques they employed to gain that knowledge, possibly making learning easier for everyone.

Know-it-alls don’t know better

For better or for worse, it turned out that society’s low opinion of belief-superior people was right all along. When quizzed on topics they claimed to have a special mastery of, know-it-alls didn’t actually know as much as they’d claim, demonstrating no special grasp of information at all. Conversely, people who spoke more humbly of their knowledge often performed better than they predicted.

The over-inflated opinions of belief-superior people seems related to the Dunning-Kruger effect, wherein people who don’t know how limited their knowledge is greatly overestimate their mastery of a topic. However, a second phase of this experiment found an important wrinkle in that model. Even though belief-superior people didn’t show any advantage in their knowledge, researchers still tested how they seek out new information. When offered six sources of information on a topic, know-it-alls tended to purposely pick sources that they thought would agree with their own opinions. This indicates that they knew other ideas existed, but seemed to prefer hearing their own “expertise” echoed back to them.

More than mere opinions

Some of this may not be the know-it-all’s fault. Other studies have previously looked at how even average people react to opinions contrary to their own on neurological level. By monitoring brain activity in an fMRI, researchers found that ideas that conflicted with test participant’s opinions were processed by the brain like physical threats. This may help explain why simply being exposed to contrasting opinions doesn’t change minds very easily; in at least one experiment, contrary opinions actually reinforced readers’ original viewpoints, pushing them towards political extremes. Belief-superiority doesn’t require an extreme viewpoint, of course, but all these factors may help explain why overconfident beliefs can feel so insufferable.

Source: Scientists Tested How Much Know-It-Alls Actually Know, And The Results Speak For Themselves by Futurity, Science Alert

On April 15th, 2018 we learned about

Staged speeches find nuances in the stressful side of seeing smiles

A smile is supposed to always be a sign of good news, but that may be biased towards the person doing the smiling. A big grin communicates a smiler’s happiness, boosts their mood and may convince them of other people’s happiness as well. On the other hand, while nobody wants to be scowled at, it turns out that people don’t always find it pleasant to be on the receiving end of a happy face. Depending on context, someone else’s smile can even be a source of stress.

Aside from the uncontrollable grin you have in response to personal enjoyment, there are three major types of social smiles. These smiles may be tied to a person’s impression of an event, but are largely meant to communicate a message to another individual. As their name indicates, rewarding smiles are meant to provide positive feedback to someone, encouraging their activity. Affiliation smiles are meant to build relationships, or at least show an attempt to relate to another individual. Dominant smiles are the least friendly of the three, as they’re sort of a passive aggressive way to remind someone of the smiler’s social superiority.

How friendly are those faces?

It’s not hard to imagine which of these smiles is the most pleasant to receive, but researchers needed to quantify the effects of these social interactions before they could draw conclusions about how they work. As a test, volunteers were asked to give a short speech, then shown reactions from “judges” via video. Judges were actually prerecorded, and were really just there to flash different types of smiles to the test participants so that their levels of the stress hormone cortisol could be measured. In every case, cortisol levels went up in the test participants, even when seeing a rewarding smile. However, the dominant smile triggered the biggest response, raising cortisol levels three-times higher than other facial expressions.

The fact that a dominant smile was unconsciously perceived as slightly threatening may not be surprising. There was an odd twist with test participants that suffered from social anxiety disorders or depression though. The type of smile didn’t seem to make much of a difference to these people one way or the other. Being less responsive to unwanted dominant smiles may sound like a benefit, but this suggests that these emotional disorders may limit people’s responsiveness to any social signals.

Source: The condescending smiles of others stress us out by Kimberly Hickok, Science

On February 27th, 2018 we learned about

Misleading successes don’t derail kids’ long-term learning

Our brains love getting positive feedback, which can have its drawbacks. Parents and teachers grapple with finding the balance between rewarding kids for getting things “right” while also trying to show appreciation for the effort a kid put into getting their answer. The concern isn’t that kids need to be propped up emotionally, but that rewarding results may overemphasize products of process while also reducing any intrinsic satisfaction the kid had from doing a good job. If that weren’t enough to consider, researchers from the University of Cambridge raised another possible issue with rewarding results— what if kids are rewarded for the wrong result and end up “learning” something that wasn’t true in the first place?

Familiar physics

In the case of the Cambridge study, the kids were supposed to be learning about physics. Our earliest physics lessons usually start when we’re babies, repeated dropping a cup on the floor or just throwing toys around a room, and so the idea that kids might have some baseline understanding of how objects interact was quite reasonable. However, a baby that’s only paying attention to the result of their action might not be learning about the nuances of how the cup fell, or toy flew, which wouldn’t really prepare them to deal with unusual results in the future. Again, too much focus on the product of an activity might diminish the importance of the process.

The actual experiment involved four- to 11-year-olds, asking them to get a token floating in a narrow tube. As in Aesop’s fable of the crow and the pitcher, the tube has a small amount of water in the bottom, but the water level is too low for the token to be accessible. The test is then if kids will pick heavy or floating objects to drop into the tube in order to displace the water to raise the water level, and token, to the top. It’s something crows have actually figured out, but in this case researchers complicated the kids efforts by secretly breaking the physics involved.

Earlier experiences vs. recent rewards

The tubes were either set to secretly drain or fill, allowing the water level to seemingly “respond” incorrectly to the kids’ efforts. For instance, heavy objects that should have raised the water were made to have no effect when the water was secretly drained away at the same time. Buoyant objects that shouldn’t displace much water were made to have the opposite effect, as water was pumped into the tube as if those objects were helping. Essentially, their success was suddenly tied to bad information, giving researchers a way to see how much that result (and accompanying sticker rewards) would influence the kids’ thinking in the future.

After kids had been “trained” on misleading tubes, they were given a chance to repeat the test with a normal tube. Happily, researchers concerns about the power of reward were a little overstated, as kids seemed to greatly value their previous experience with real-world physics over their recent, misleading reward. Younger kids were thrown off by the fake physics a little more, but kids as young as seven seemed to already be reliant on their long-term experience with physics instead of simply recreating how they last earned a sticker.


My eight-year-old said: I’m proud of those seven-year-olds for getting it right!

My five-year-old said: Yay five-year-olds!

Source: Young children use physics, not previous rewards, to learn about tools by University of Cambridge, Phys.org

On February 8th, 2018 we learned about

Forced perspective fakes sizes and spaces by manipulating a structure’s proportions

It may seem redundant to point out that something in Disneyland is fake, but on a recent trip to the theme park my family was surprised to “discover” visual tricks hidden right in front of us. While the robotic pirates and dancing cartoon characters may be obvious, an architectural concept known as forced perspective manipulates our perception of space in a more subtle way, particularly in its application on Disney’s “Main Street, USA.” It’s a trick that Disney is said to have borrowed from film-makers in Hollywood, but its use extends all the way back to architecture in ancient Greece, not to mention some really tall depictions of people.

Building smaller to look big

Forced perspective is a series of small adjustments a designer can make to create the perception that a space is larger or smaller than it really is. It taps into our brains’ understanding of how parallel lines seem to converge at a distance, and how objects appear smaller when they’re further away. In Disneyland, this means that structures are made to look taller by making their upper extremities smaller, giving the illusion that they’re extending further away from a viewer’s eye than they really are.

There are many examples of this kind of design, many of which are right at the front of the park. Buildings are made to look like they’re three stories tall, but the second and third “floors” are reduced in scale by 3/8 and 1/2 respectively. The Matterhorn has full-sized trees at its base, with smaller model trees higher up to imply a soaring peak. The castle at the center of the park has small upper floors, and thanks to strategic angling on the buildings leading up to it, looks further away, and therefore bigger, than it really is when you first see it.

Faking and fixing ancient architecture

This kind of deception certainly didn’t originate in Anaheim or Hollywood. An example of many of these concepts can be found in the Palazzo Spada in Rome. Architect Francesco Borromini didn’t have room to build the traditional 100-foot-long hallway and colonnade in the palace, so he did the math to figure out what adjustments were needed to make a 26-foot-long hallway appear nearly four times longer than it really was. The tiles in the floor were carefully sized to appear further away. The floor is actually on an incline to imply more depth. Finally, a sculpture that appears to be the size of an adult at the far end of the hall is actually the size of a child, all to create the illusion of a full-length building. All together, it’s an aggressive set of adjustments that make the space look bigger, at least until you try to walk down the hall.

The ancient Greeks employed some similar ideas, but for slightly different effect. With a building like the Parthenon, the goal wasn’t to use forced perspective to make the structure look larger than reality, but to fix what perspective normally does to a large building. Regularly spaced columns, for instance, don’t look regularly spaced when viewed at once. So the Greeks made the columns in the Parthenon wider apart at the corners and closer together in the middle. This way, a viewer looking at one side of the building would see what appears to be a perfectly regular pattern of columns. The columns themselves were adjusted as well, being tilted and made wider in the middle, all so that they appeared to look straight and even when viewed from below.

Resizing statues

That viewing angle doesn’t only matter to buildings, but sculptures as well. Large sculptures, from Michelangelo’s David to the Statue of Liberty, are often created with the understanding that their relative height to the viewing audience will make the heads and shoulders look “too” small. To undo this effect of perspective, these sculptures’ have unnaturally large heads and shoulders so that they would look “right” to someone looking up at them from the ground. In an era of zoom lenses, drone-mounted cameras and more, this may seem a bit arcane, but may help explain why seeing something in person can be so much better than photo or video reproductions.

Source: Forced Perspective in Architecture by Christopher Muscato, Study.com

On January 17th, 2018 we learned about

Science scrutinizes what factors make for a superior smile

My third-grader has mastered her publicity smile. While she isn’t posting selfies anywhere yet, she’s apparently put some work into making sure she has a camera-ready grin. I realize that, as her parent, I probably carry some biases about her appearance, but fortunately scientists around the world have been working to figure out what a truly optimal smile looks like. Crafting a smile isn’t risk-free though, as research has also found a few downsides in even the most beaming grin.

Perfect mouth position

As many of us have found out the hard way, not all smiles are created equal. How much a person opens their mouth or exposes their teeth can make greatly change how that smile is received by onlookers. To really parse which combination of mouth-shapes matter, researchers from the University of Minnesota surveyed people with images of an artificial head so that the other features could remain consistent while the smile was tweaked and adjusted in small ways. What they found was that a wide smile is judged as attractive if the teeth don’t show, a more open smile looks good if the mouth isn’t stretched wide, and a “medium” smile is pretty safe with teeth, no teeth, or something in between. To be more specific, the best-rated grins had a mouth angled between 13 and 17 degrees at the corners, with a width between 55 and 62 percent the distance between the eyes.

Before you worry about pulling out a ruler the next time you see a camera, it should be noted that these measurements don’t tell the full story. Cultural differences, asymmetrical features and the expression in your eyes can all influence how a smile will be received. The context of your smile counts too, since what’s a great smile on vacation might not be so winning at work.

Friendly but flakey?

A second study looked at how prospective clients view smiles of an agent they’d like to hire for different tasks. Overall, broader smiles were judged as being warmer, which may be great for someone working as a customer service agent. People with jobs that involved potential risk, like surgeons or investment advisers, were penalized if they had a large smile. They were still seen as warm, but also less competent than competition who looked more reserved.

The appearance of age

That broad, warm smile may also misrepresent your age. A third study found that participants all felt positively about images of smiling people, but they surprisingly also expected them to be older than they were. Despite what participants expected of how a facial expression might affect appearances, looking surprised was apparently the best way to look younger, probably because a wide-eyed gasp helps hide wrinkles, while a solid smile adds some friendly crinkles around the eyes and mouth.

Smiling after stealing

This may seem like a lot of pressure for something as simple as a photo, but the highest stakes for your smile may be tied to social competition. Researchers at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies had test participants play a simple game, where they could either compete or cooperate with a partner to win money. For each round of the game, players chose to either split the money or steal it. If both agreed to split the money, they did exactly that. If one chose steal, they got all the money, and if both chose steal, both players received nothing.

If one player successfully stole the money, the facial expressions of both players were found to greatly influence the next round of play. A smiling victor would almost certainly drive the loser to choose “steal” on next, apparently as a way get retribution for the previous loss. However, if the loser smiled, it would act as an instant peace treaty, and the both players would be more likely to “split” the next round of the game.

Nodding seems nice

With this many nuances and consequences being attached to a simple smile, it’s fair to be hoping for a tip on just feeling less self-conscious about your facial expressions. Fortunately, researchers in Japan may have a handy shortcut to boosting how likeable and approachable you look. Just nodding your head up and down, as when you’re agreeing to something, was found to improve a virtual human’s likability by 30 percent. Better yet, when the figure shook it’s head “no,” its likeability wasn’t penalized in viewers’ eyes, meaning you don’t even have to worry about saying “yes” to every question you encounter. These results were looking at a female face with Japanese viewers only, so they might not be shared by people around the world. But a friendly nod coupled with a moderate smile seems like practical enough formula to aim for the next time you need to make a good impression.

Source: A winning smile avoids showing too many teeth, researchers say by Nicola Davis, The Guardian

On January 8th, 2018 we learned about

Dressing up as heroes helps kids keep their distance from tempting distractions

Batman stared at the screen, his eyes starting to glaze over. He’d been working for what felt like an eternity, but knew he had to resist the tempting trap his nemesis had left for him. A purple and green iPad, conspicuously placed next to the computer so that Batman couldn’t possibly miss it. Despite the relief and mystery promised by the device, Batman knew he couldn’t give up on his work. He only had a few more minutes before it’d all be over…

Researchers have found that, unfortunately, even Batman, or a child emulating him, can’t resist temptation for long. A study looking at the perseverance of four- to six-year-olds actually found that nobody can resist an iPad for too long, especially if it’s loaded with games. However, by getting helping kids establish different mental contexts for themselves, such as pretending to be Batman, researchers found that kids can extend the limits of their self-control.

In this experiment, 180 kids were all asked to work at an intentionally dull task for ten minutes in a room by themselves. That might be tough on its own, but to really test kids’ self-control, an iPad was left for them as well, creating a strong temptation to give up on their boring assignment. The iPad eventually grabbed the attention of every participant, but the prompts each child was given before and during the ten-minute test period made a big difference in how long kids could stay on task.

Strategies to stick with a tiresome task

While every child had been told that the boring task was important, the first group was also instructed to ask themselves if they felt they were working hard as time progressed. That question wasn’t terribly inspiring, and these kids spent more time, over six minutes, using the iPads instead of doing their work. The second group of kids was told to do the same thing, but from a third-person perspective. Instead of asking “am I working hard,” they needed to ask “is [child’s name] working hard?” This strategy is called “self-distancing,” based on the idea that if kids could mentally remove themselves from the situation, and the probably enjoyment of the iPad in particular, it would be easier to ignore that temptation.

The third group not only did some “self-distancing,” but were told to adopt a whole other person’s persona while they worked. Kids were prompted to emulate Batman, Rapunzel, Dora the Explorer, or Bob the Builder, then given a costume piece to help them really get into their role. While they worked, they were reminded to ask “Is Batman working hard?” to which the answer was often (but not always) “yes!” Unfortunately, the experiment didn’t offer a fourth round of characters that were more neutral in the kids eyes (“Is Mommy’s coworker working hard?”) so it’s hard to say how much of the increased focus was due to emulating a character’s imagined work-ethic, and how much was the self-distancing effect. However, since even speaking of one’s self in the third-person made some improvements in kids’ work-times, it’s safe to assume that getting out of one’s own shoes helped keep the iPads out of kids’ hands.


My third-grader asked: Did they do this with older kids? I would have wanted them to ask us to be Harry Potter.

The kids were between ages four and six, which was pretty significant. The six-year-olds naturally did better on the boring task, holding out for five minutes on average, versus the two-and-a-half minutes four-year-olds worked.

Also, Harry Potter? Not Hermione, the hardest working character in the Potterverse? Really?

Source: New research finds that kids aged 4-6 perform better during boring tasks when dressed as Batman by Jenny Anderson, World Economic Forum

On November 13th, 2017 we learned about

Imaginary creatures help illuminate the specific boundaries of people’s visual intelligence

If you’re smart, you should have an easy time assessing visual information, right? Humans are a very visually oriented species, and seeing the world around us is tied to so many parts of our lives, it only makes sense that interpreting visual stimuli is tied to your overall cognitive abilities. At least, that’s what most people have thought, until professor Isabel Gauthier set out to actually test this connection. It turns out that we have a lot of assumptions about our visual skills, and they don’t really hold up when they’re properly tested.

The first assumption that these tests busted was that people are good at guessing their own visual skills. While not all of us rely on visual skills to find abnormalities in medical x-rays, or track aircraft on radar screen, just about everyone does rely on visual pattern recognition to navigate the world around us. However, since these skills can be built up with frequently seen objects, you can get good at recognizing a specific object without actually improving your overall ability to seek out visual clues in your environment. This means that not only do most people misjudge their visual skills in relation to others, but many tests of these skills have misrepresented people’s skills as well.

Isolating the intended abilities

To really test how well people can find specific visual information, Gauthier designed some imaginary creatures that guaranteed a clean slate among test participants. Since her greebles, ziggerins and sheinbugs were made up for the test, there was no way anyone might skew their results due to a preexisting familiarity with these “creatures.” When coupled with more traditional intelligence assessments, this Novel Object Memory Test (NOMT) allowed for a more accurate comparison between visual skills and other forms of intelligence.

After 2000 people were tested online, the pattern that emerged was that one’s ability to find specific visual information is unrelated to other forms of intelligence. Math and verbal abilities had a decent range among test participants, but their visual skills were more tightly clustered. So while a person may be great at math, that’s no predictor that they’ll be good at visually analyzing fingerprints. Spotting details on video screen won’t tell us anything about your problem solving skills. This may sound intuitive in retrospect, but may actually spur some skill assessments in various arenas, like job placement, to be reconsidered. Now that we know to test visual abilities as a discreet skill, we can finally start to learn more about where people’s strengths actually lie.

Source: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ by David Salisbury, News at Vanderbilt

On October 18th, 2017 we learned about

STEM students can, and probably should, do a bit of dancing

When my wife was a graduate student, she helped run a dance troupe, took ballet classes, and performed and help produce a campus-wide dance show. The program ran over an hour, featuring everything from hula to ballroom, lyrical to… something approximating hip-hop. These performers probably weren’t going to give up their day jobs, but they all looked pretty amazing considering their day jobs had them working in some of the world’s most prestigious research labs across a huge range of fields. Nobody questioned the value of dance in these scientists’ lives, and the school community was very supportive of the show each year. A more formalized study from North Carolina State University has come to similar, if more specific conclusions. Even top-notch biochemists benefit from time on the dance floor.

Finding balance with ballet or ballroom

The study was framed against the multitude of calls for more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the United States. As technology continues to shape our economies and capabilities, STEM proponents feel that students need to be more thoroughly prepared to have an active role in those fields, or else risk falling behind. However, focus shouldn’t mean ignoring other activities, and it seems that students from all disciplines, including STEM, can improve their lives by participating in creative arts like a dance troupe or class.

The pattern that emerged through surveys and interviews was that dance was both complementary and supplementary to academic work. Rehearsing a specific dance for a class or possible performance requires, and reinforces, self-discipline that is crucial for any form of research. Students reported dance helped them work with larger groups, and it was easier to incorporate multiple viewpoints into their thinking. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that dance can be fun, allowing for personal expression and a sense of community, all without the need for a keg of beer. Researchers hope to follow up with a more quantifiable study, looking at how participating in dance affects work performance and personal health.

Mental challenges of choreographed movement

Beyond proving the value of dance in STEM-oriented environments, many previous studies have looked at how dance can benefit individual brains. The rhythmic movement has been found to trigger reward centers, which are further boosted by the accompanying music during a performance. Coordinated efforts in choreographed and spontaneous dance have been found to increase activity in the motor cortex, somatosensory cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum, all in order to handle planning, control and movement of the body. Some of this is likely true for other physical activities as well, but in a 2003 study, only dance classes were found to help lower participants’ risk of developing dementia. This is thought to be tied to some of the social aspects of dance that isn’t replicated in a game of golf, for instance.

Where does all this lead us? To Dance Your PhD, of course.

Source: How Dance Can Help Students in STEM Disciplines by Fay Cobb Payton and Matt Shipman, NC State News

On September 25th, 2017 we learned about

Acknowledging negative emotions makes us better equipped to cope with negative experiences

There’s something deeply satisfying about listening to sad songs when you’re feeling down. Picking a song list that matches your mood just feels right, and now research is suggesting that it may also help you feel better. There’s a point where acknowledging your sorrows can become full-blown moping, but experiments are finding that denial of negative feelings can make things significantly harder.

Seeing more than the sunny side

Of course, researchers couldn’t induce negative emotions by breaking up couples and causing pets to run away. Instead, they came up with three different experiments that let them study the relationship between how people acknowledged negative feelings and how well they coped with stress, difficulty and life in general. The first test was a simple survey with questions asking about people’s view of negative emotions. When coupled with outside emotional assessments, participants who accepted feeling bad sometimes probably spent less time feeling bad overall.

To test more acute stress, 150 participants were put through mock job interviews with two minutes of preparation. This wasn’t expected to be a pleasant experience for anyone, but participants were asked about how they felt about the interviews afterwards. Following the trend of the surveys, people who acknowledged and accepted negative feelings were generally less stressed by the interview experience. By allowing themselves the space to feel bad, bad experiences didn’t seem be so overwhelming when they came up.

Finally, 200 people were asked to keep a diary for two weeks about their most difficult experiences each day. Those diaries were then analyzed to see how much each writer acknowledged their own negative feelings when things didn’t go their way. Six months later, a follow-up evaluation looked at the writers’ mental health, and again found that people who accepted that life has its rough patches were generally better off, with fewer symptoms of mood disorders being turning up in their interviews.

Writing to reduce worry

An unrelated study from Michigan State University looked different, more direct form of acknowledging negativity. Chronic worriers aren’t in denial of negative feelings, but they do stress themselves trying to constantly control their worry. Researchers compared it to uncontrollable multitasking, effectively increasing a person’s cognitive load no matter what other tasks were at hand. To test how forms of engagement could make a difference in these cases, test participants were asked to either write about their feelings for eight minutes, or just what they got up to the day before.

After this brief writing exercise, all participants were given a computer based test that could assess accuracy and response times while sensors monitored their brain activity. People who wrote about their feelings didn’t become more accurate or faster, but the EEG sensors did find that they had an easier time performing at that level. It suggests that acknowledging anxiety in writing reduced the difficulty of controlling it moment by moment.

Source: Feeling bad about feeling bad can make you feel worse by Yasmin Anwar, Berkeley News

On September 24th, 2017 we learned about

Babies act more determined after their parents demonstrate dealing with difficulty

I may need to teach my son to struggle more. It’s not that things are too easy for him, but that he expects them to be easy. In many scenarios, it’s not that his four-year-old brain or hands are incapable of say, putting on his shoes, but if there’s frustration involved he’d rather skip it. So keep him from quitting before he gives himself a chance, research indicates that I need to show him how hard a time I have with my shoes, even if that means faking it.

The research in question actually looked at kids much younger than four, focusing on babies around 13 months old. 260 babies were divided into three groups to see how long they would attempt a difficult task based on what kind of examples nearby adults set beforehand. One group of babies watched their guardians struggle with getting keys off a carabiner or open a container, only succeeding after a preset time of 30 seconds. A second group of babies watched their guardian repeatedly succeed at these tasks, again for 30 seconds to ensure that the amount of interaction was basically the same. A third group of babies were just left to ponder on their own a bit as a control group, with no adults to model their behavior on either way.

After the adults dealt with their difficult keyrings or containers, they presented the baby with a music box. The box had one obvious button that did nothing, plus a hidden button the guardian would trigger before leaving the room. The activated boxes would play a bit of music, prompting the baby to try and reactivate the box on their own, presumably by interacting with the big fake button. As expected, no babies actually figured out how to activate the music on their own, but they did vary quite a bit in how hard they tried.

When is struggling worth the effort?

The kids that didn’t watch an adult at all didn’t give the box too much of their time, nor did kids that got a demonstration of repeated success. In contrast, the babies that witnessed their guardian put in a lot of fruitless effort before finally dealing with their keys and containers put in more work themselves. Even though they were attempting a different task, their expectations for how to solve a problem seemed to shift, and they were less likely to give up. This doesn’t necessarily scale forever- it wasn’t tested, but researcher suspect that a guardian that never succeeded after 30 seconds might be discouraging as well.

It’s unclear if these practices are only effective in babies, or if kids old enough to say “I can’t!” will be impressed to see their dad fumble with his sneakers for 30 seconds before we head out the door. I’ve never felt like I was making things look easy in front of my kids, but at the very least, pretending to have a hard time certainly sounds like an easy task to try out.

Source: Babies Learn Perseverance by Watching You Sweat by Christopher Wanjek, Live Science