Kids are natural scientists, it turns out.
In an article published last week in Science, psychologist Alison Gopnik reviewed the literature about the way young children learn, and she finds that the way preschoolers play is very similar to the way scientists do experiments: Kids come up with general principles, akin to scientific theories, based on the data of their daily lives. Gopnik argues that the research should steer educators and policy makers away from more-regimented, dogmatic kinds of preschool instruction.
What’s the News: Parrots, those irrepressible mimics of the animal world, are some of the few creatures known to have individual names: each bird has its own signature call that others use when addressing it and that the bird uses itself in avian “conversation.” Scientists have long wondered where these calls come from. Now, a new study of wild parrots shows that even before chicks can “talk,” their parents have provided them with a moniker, which they will tweak and then use throughout their lives.
What’s the News: Making loans to small business owners in developing countries has quite the positive reputation. It has given people in poverty, especially women, a chance to bootstrap themselves up the economic ladder despite having marginal or no credit history and little work experience, as people have used the tiny loans to start businesses, purchase herds of animals, or invest in improvements to their shops or inventory. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the economists who developed the practice in the 1970s at Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank.
But does microcredit really pay off? In a study published today in Science, economists have taken a rigorous look at it and concluded that in many or its modern implementations, it’s not having the touted benefits.