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Some Random Musings from Recent Research

28Jun 2009



Over the past weeks I have been gathering some research articles from various publications that I thought had some interesting bits of information. Here they are. The topics include: research on how Western culture and Asian culture affect problem-solving approaches, video game addiction, infant anesthesia and later learning disabilities, and age biases in the workplace that are not found to be true according to research.

Psychology Research Bits & Pieces

From the June 2009 Monitor on Psychology:

*Infants exposed to anesthesia during surgery may be at greater risk for learning disabilities. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that:

-infants who had been anesthetized two or more times before age 4 had a 60% increased chance of having learning difficulties;

-infants who had three or more exposure to anesthesia by age 3 doubled the child’s risk for learning problems later in life.

*Nearly one in 10 youth gamers addicted to video games. A study of over 1100 youth 8 to 18 found that addicted gamers exhibited behavioral patterns similar to pathological gamblers and they played video games 24 hours a week (2x as much as non-addicted gamer). Addicted gamers were also twice as likely to have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.

*Research does not support many age-biases that exist in the workplace. Research reported in the June 2009 APA Monitor on Psychology states that:

-Older workers are happier with their work than younger workers and were in as good physical shape as their colleagues.

-Older and younger workers want many of the same things from their work:

Schedule flexibility, opportunities to learn, a supportive supervisor, and promotion fairness.

-There is no evidence to support the belief that Millennials and Gen Y workers are not hard workers. They do, however, look for identity-based work — something they enjoy that suits their abilities and interests. And younger workers tend to asset themselves and question the status quo. Dr. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett from Clark University states, “The fact that they are willing to question and offer criticism is something that can make an organization better.”

-Millennials do look to change jobs more frequently but are willing to explore career alternatives within the same company.

One interesting point raised by Dr. Elisa Perry at Columbia University: It’s hard to know how many of the things we are seeing are about generational differences or age differences. . . Those are potentially very different things. For example, will these characteristics of different age groups still exist in 15 or 20 years as the younger generations move into later life stages?


East versus West: A psychology professor dares to compare how Asians and Americans think. Forbes, May 11, 2009.

Richard Nisbett, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Michigan has been researching the differences in how North Americans and Asians think. He proposes the following differences:

-Asians see things in context, while Westerners focus on the point in hand.

-Asians are more holistic in their thinking while Americans are more analytic and reductionistic.

For example, in presenting a virtual aquarium on a computer screen, The Americans would say, “I saw three big fish swimming off to the left. They had pink fins.” They went for the biggest, brightest moving object and focused on that and on its attributes, Nisbett explains. The Japanese in that study would start by saying, “Well, I saw what looked like a stream. The water was green. There were rocks and shells on the bottom. There were three big fish swimming off to the left.”

A key difference Nisbett found may help explain differences in financial thinking and choices. Canadians predict a stock whose value is rising will continue to rise, while Chinese think what goes up will come down. This might help explain why we are prone to economic “bubbles” and suggests, when things are going well, Americans should possibly temper their optimism.

Nisbett, in his book, Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count, examined why Asian-Americans score higher on the SAT than other Americans and why Asian students do significantly better on math and science exams than U.S. students. He concludes, “Asian intellectual accomplishment is due more to sweat than to exceptional gray matter.”  The Asian cultural value of obligation to family drives a deeper work ethic, Nesbitt believes.

For me, personally, the two most interesting findings are the high rate of video game addiction and the debunking of the myth that Asian students are brighter than students in the U.S. — they just tend to work harder.


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