Reddit | Maria_carey, Reddit

Studies Find Kids' Dinosaur Obsession May Show Better Learning Abilities

When I was growing up, my dad and I reached a kind of understanding. If I went on about the minutiae of Pokémon and other video games he didn't care about, he could respond in kind with the dull details of whatever scientific experiment fascinated him.

It was a good system, but what I didn't know was that the mutual tolerance of each other's info dumps was probably nurturing my ability to learn.

Oddly enough, that wasn't because I absorbed the science facts he was talking about because I don't really remember what he said.

According to research in Indiana and Wisconsin, just letting me explore the nitty gritty details of my interest was helpful in and of itself.

Some parents may have noticed that their kids can't seem to get enough of dinosaurs.

Reddit | Maria_carey

Not only do they like playing with them, but they're also asking a lot of questions about them and their eyes light up when they see an opportunity to gain more dinosaur knowledge.

For some parents, this can eventually grow into situations where the kids will correct them when they misidentify a dinosaur.

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According Joyce M. Alexander of Indiana University and her team, that sort of interest can have some very positive implications for developing a child's learning skills.

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Their study differentiated this "conceptual interest" from what they called situational interests.

For instance, if a dinosaur makes a sudden, loud roar, a child will be situationally interested in that. If dinosaurs themselves are the point of interest, that's conceptual.

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It's also worth noting that dinosaurs are just an example of what a kid can develop a conceptual interest in.

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As long as they're often interested in pursuing more information about it, the subject of their interest can be anything from dinosaurs to birds to Pokémon.

The point is that this level of interest has been found to lead to greater likelihood of responding correctly to comprehension questions, as well as the ability to elaborate on those answers.

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Previous research cited by Alexander and her team also found other benefits for learning when a kid keeps up their conceptual interest.

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These include an aptitude for gathering knowledge and persistence when they don't quite understand something, as well as enhanced attention spans and the ability to process concepts more deeply.

The researchers also said that these benefits come out more in these efforts at fact-finding than they do when kids have "pretend adventures" with their dinosaurs. The second one has more to do with their creative potential than their learning abilities.

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The researchers also noticed that boys tended to take to these conceptual interests more often than girls.

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Although boys and girls focused and expressed their interests in roughly the same way, they noticed that the subject of their interest and what kinds of activities they used to explore that interest changed.

A greater number of boys were observed as emphasizing this kind of information gathering, as well as games with rules and building activities, while girls tended towards the "pretend adventures," as well as toward creative arts and literacy.

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As for why this difference existed, Alexander's team noted a few possible factors.

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They suggested that boys tend to take comfort in creating and examining things that follow set rules and were measurable and finite, which they called systematizing.

Other factors could potentially include their parents' beliefs on what things are appropriate for which gender to play with, as well as marketing that tends to gear boys towards dinosaur models and bug collection kits more often than it does with girls.

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However, regardless of whether a girl or a boy has picked up a conceptual interest, the researchers found that they became less likely to hold onto it once they started school.

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This seemed to have to do with the fact that teachers don't usually have much leeway to tailor their lessons to a kid's specific interests, as well as what the researchers cited as "an increased array of potential situational interest triggers in school."

Even though school often felt boring for us, a lot does happen in a school day. It doesn't doesn't help that school leaves kids with less time to pursue their individual interests.

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The team also pointed out that challenges to an individual interest aren't just limited to to the school environment and lesson structures themselves, but also the pressure to form friendships.

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When potential friends don't have much knowledge about or interest in dinosaurs, birds, Pokémon or whatever a kid's conceptual interest might be, a child may avoid discussing what they know about it to avoid boring their new friend.

h/t: The Journal of Cognitive Development

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