The ability to overcome the irresistible temptation in front of us for our future goals is more or less necessary for everyone. The author, Yusuke Moriguchi, says that such power to control oneself is a different ability from "smartness."
The amount of knowledge and the ability to process problems quickly are technically called "cognitive skills." On the other hand, self-confidence, seriousness, and sociability are called “non-cognitive skills” as abilities different from cognitive skills. As one of the non-cognitive skills, this book asserts the importance of "executive function", which is the ability to control one's desires and thoughts in order to achieve a goal. It has been shown that when this function is high as a child, academic ability and sociability will be improved, financial success will be achieved even after becoming an adult, and health will be improved.
When you hear that, people with children may want to train their child's executive functions. In conclusion, anything that negatively impacts executive function is clearly mentioned in this book. It is important to avoid it. On the other hand, unfortunately, we don't know what has a positive effect on executive function.
But on the flip side, it means that we haven't found a mythical methodology to control ourselves. There are too many things in the world that explain unfounded methodologies even though they don't understand. I hope you will learn from this book a perspective that you will not be swayed by such information.
Main points of this book
In order to carry out a healthy social life, the "executive function" that suppresses one's desires and executes things systematically plays an important role.
There are two executive functions: the "executive function of emotions" that controls desires and emotions for goals, and the "executive function of thoughts" that controls habits and habits for goals.
High executive capacity in childhood can have many implications for subsequent life situations.
In order to fully develop the executive function of the child, it is considered that the physical and mental connection with the caregiver and the family environment are especially important.
"Executive function" that greatly affects life
People endure and live every day
Everybody fights and endures various temptations every day. As an example, let's take a day at an office worker. My spouse hated me in the morning and I wanted to eat sweets, but I worried about my blood sugar and decided on bread with a low sugar content. He endured a crowded train, and suddenly he was asked by his boss to give priority to another job at the company, and the words he complained about were suppressed. For lunch, I chose calorie-free meals instead of what I liked, and I endured coffee to save money. At night I work overtime while staying asleep.
One study shows that people frequently feel some desire and keep it under control. Not only the most appetite and sleep desire, but also the desire to approve on social networking services (SNS).
Imagine if you cannot overcome all your desires. You will find that the ability to control one's desires and thoughts, that is, the "executive function," is essential for a healthy social life. This helps to resist the temptation in front of us and choose ways to benefit in the future.
Moreover, the execution function is an important ability not only for restraint but also for prioritizing things and systematically proceeding. It is said that bosses with low executive functions cannot manage their work well.
People with sufficient executive functions are more likely to be able to complete their jobs and to lead a healthy life, such as being less likely to become obese. Then, acquiring this ability is important for many people.
IQ is not enough
IQ is often cited as an important ability for children's future. However, some people are lagging behind in society even though they have a lot of knowledge and their minds rotate quickly. It is "non-cognitive skills" that make such a difference. In other words, it's the ability to take good care of yourself and get along well with others.
IQ does not change much throughout life, while non-cognitive skills can change with education and parenting practices. Perry Preschool Project, an early childhood education program in Michigan, USA, aims to improve children's IQ by providing early and high-quality education to poor children, who tend to lose their academic ability. And The children who received the program had higher IQs than the children who did not. However, the difference disappeared around 10 years old.
However, this "failure" does not end the story. Subsequent follow-up studies revealed that children attending an early childhood education program had high school attendance and good grades at junior high school. This tendency continued even after becoming a high school student. Moreover, most of them successfully graduated from high school, earned high income even as adults, and had a low welfare rate and crime rate.
In other words, it was shown that early childhood education in this project had no long-term effect on IQ, but it affected the development of non-cognitive skills and promoted social success.
Do you decide the annual income after becoming an adult in your childhood?
The OECD report lists three capabilities for non-cognitive skills. The first is the ability to interact with other people, which is a social skill that makes them considerate of others. The second is the ability to manage one's feelings and to have self-esteem. And the third is the ability to achieve the goal, which overlaps the executive function. Many studies of preschool children have shown that this third ability has a strong impact on their future.
A study of children's growth that has been conducted in New Zealand to date between 1972 and 1973, to date, shows that more than 90% of participants did not drop out, not only for the length of the period. However, the reliability of the data is high and it is receiving attention from the world. A 2011 report revealed that health status, annual income, occupation, and degree of crime at the age of 32 can be predicted from executive functioning as a child. When the executive function was low in childhood, various problems were more likely to occur in adulthood, even if the effects of household economic conditions and IQ were excluded. They face health risks, are prone to addiction to tobacco and drugs, and have low annual incomes. It's shocking that one childhood ability has far-reaching implications for life more than 20 years later.
At present, the importance of executive functions is widely known in the United States and other countries, and the movement to use it for education and parenting is spreading. However, in Japan, many people are still unfamiliar with the word "execution function."
Executive functions that develop in childhood
Emotional and thinking
There are two types of execution functions. The "execution function of emotions" that controls instinctual desires and emotions to achieve goals, and the "execution function of thoughts" that controls habits and habits that you unconsciously do while keeping your goals. These two executive functions develop significantly in early childhood and then gradually in childhood.
Children under the age of two cannot wait if they have attractive sweets and food in front of them. In other words, it does not have the ability to execute emotions. In the experiment that you can get two cookies if you put up with one cookie in front of you, you will be able to wait about 2 minutes at the age of 3 and 10 minutes at the age of 5 or 6. This is because not only the ability to suppress the desire develops itself, but it is also possible to devise ways to suppress the emotion, such as thinking about other fun things. This growth continues even during elementary school.
In new situations, you may have to take actions that are different from what you are used to doing. What is needed at this time is the ability to execute thoughts. It takes the role of a handle that selects which action to take. For example, consider the following test for children using a card. Switch the rule of placing cards in the same color to the rule of placing cards in the same shape. Then, until the age of three, this switch became extremely difficult. Even if you understand the rules themselves, you cannot change to a new rule on the way. Even when it's about five years old, you can do it almost exactly. A 3-year-old child can't predict in advance, so it's an ad hoc approach. When this is about 5 years old to elementary school students, the following rules can be put in their heads so that they can prepare to operate the steering wheel.
Adolescence at the crossroads
Looking at children's normal development of executive function, it seems that executive function continues to develop even after adolescence. However, in the early teens to early twenties, I think that everyone had a lot of energy and urges and had a little crazy experience. During adolescence, major changes in body and brain occur. People tend to focus on physical changes, but major changes in their minds and behaviors also occur during this period.
The focus of this book is on the youthful traits of "liking risky behavior." The executive function of thinking continues to develop gradually from adolescence to adulthood. On the other hand, it is said that the executive function of emotions is temporarily reduced. For example, in a money-based gambling test, adolescents make higher risk and higher return choices than their children. Especially in junior high school students, this tendency became stronger.
This is because in adolescents, the concentration of sex hormones rises rapidly and the areas of the brain involved in emotions and memory change. The reward circuit of the brain, which reacts to what you find attractive to you, becomes more active. In a sense, the accelerator is in a good condition. It is the prefrontal cortex of the brain that is responsible for the brakes, but this area has not yet grown up in adolescence because it continues to develop at its own pace until adulthood. Therefore, when the accelerator wins the brakes, the young man may run out of control.
Another feature of adolescents is that their peers and friends are more influential than their families. I am also sensitive to losing my friends. How to be recognized within the group becomes important. Studies have also reported that young people have difficulty controlling themselves when they are friends. Sometimes I take a bad ride, and I do it when I have friends, even if it is a silly thing or dangerous thing that I can not do alone.
However, strong adolescent accelerators can also be very helpful in learning and discovering new things. Besides, strong influences from friends can be in a positive direction. When adolescents, who tend to have large fluctuations in both good and bad ways, are astrayed by crimes, their lives can become overwhelmingly disadvantageous. In this sense, adolescence can be a turning point in life. If you develop the executive function firmly in childhood, you will be able to brake the behavior of adolescents.
[Must read] How to train the execution function
Stress hinders development
All abilities are affected by both genetic and environmental factors. Although the genetic part cannot be ignored, it has been found that it is environmental factors, especially the family environment, that influence the executive function of children.
Of great importance is the relationship between the financial status of households and executive functions. It is said that socioeconomic status such as occupation, educational background, income and property has a great influence on the development of language ability and thinking function. One reason for this is that children with lower socioeconomic status are more stressed to their children than households without it. The prefrontal cortex, which acts as a brake, is vulnerable to stress, which affects development.
In addition, it is known that children are likely to be abused in families with low socioeconomic status, and that violence and quarreling between couples are frequent, and brain damage is severe. Among the abuses, the one that most seriously affects the executive function of children is abandonment and neglect.
Over the first few months of life, the caregiver and the child have an emotional connection, a so-called attachment relationship. When the baby feels anxious or uncomfortable and crys, the caregiver responds to it so that the child becomes aware of the emotional control. So in terms of development of executive function, neglect is more harmful than physical abuse. From this you can see how important it is for a child to build a solid and stable relationship with the caregiver.
It is clear that it adversely affects the development of executive functions. Abuse is the leading cause of emotional instability of parents, passive long-time viewing of TVs and smartphones, and lack of sleep. On the other hand, little is known about what has a positive effect on the development of executive functions. The only thing that is important is parenting, where children support themselves from the back when they are trying to do their best, and to keep the family habits in the house. Since I don't know, I want to be careful not to disturb the peace of mind by being swayed by easy claims related to parenting.
Can adults be trained?
Although long-term effects need to be tested, we know that children's executive functions are likely to be trained in a variety of programs such as moving body games, exercise, music and mindfulness.
Then, can adult's executive function also be trained? Researchers have also debated the effects of training cognitive functions, including executive functions. Also, it is said that even if the training is effective, it is slight and temporary, so it is necessary to continue training.
As an adult, trying to train executive functions is not easy. If so, it is important to understand under what circumstances an executive function will fail and prepare for it to work at critical moments. Avoid temptation as much as possible, rest when you are under stress, make no serious decisions when you are sleepless.
First of all, as we have seen, it is important to recognize that the problem of executive function is a risk factor for children in the future, and that there are children who have problems with this function.
Recommendation of reading
This book introduces various research studies on executive functions that can have a wide range of effects on children's future situations. This will be a great hint for the child-rearing generation, as it allows you to learn about the development of children by age. The structure of the brain is also detailed, so it should be very convincing.