Jean Mercer – Child Development: Myths and Misunderstandings

June 13, 2011

This week’s guest is Jean Mercer, a Developmental Psychologist and Professor Emerita at Richard Stockton College. She is the author of the new book Child Development: Myths and Misunderstandings.

Jean writes the blog “Child Myths”, and along with Penn Jillette and Richard Dawkins, she is a co-author of Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion. Jean is also a contributor and Consulting Editor to the Center for Inquiry’s journal, the Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice.

In this interview with Karen Stollznow, Jean talks about the developing field of developmental psychology. Jean jokes that “studying child development isn’t rocket science…it’s a lot more complicated than that!” This is an area that is fraught with myths, mistakes and misconceptions; Jean explains how these develop and the often serious repercussions.

Jean discusses the importance of critical thinking about child development. Pseudoscientific therapies often have the semblance of science, so what information can we trust? Jean talks about the emphasis on evidence-based practice in developmental psychology, and why we have to think critically about that too.

This is point of inquiry from Monday, June 13th, 2011. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry. I’m Karen Stollznow Point of Inquiry’s, the radio show and podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs and at the grassroots. My guest this week is Jean Mersa, a developmental psychologist and professor emerita at Richard Stockton College. Jean is the author of the new book Child Development Myths and Misunderstandings. She writes the blog Child Myths, and along with Penn Jillette and Richard Dawkins. Gene is a coauthor of Parenting Beyond Belief on Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion. Jane is also a contributor and consulting editor to the Center for Inquiry’s general, The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. 

Jean, welcome to Point of Inquiry. Thank you. Now, Jean, you’ve said that studying child development isn’t rocket science. It’s a lot more complicated than that. So why is that the case? 

Well, I’m sure when I try to answer just is going to be some engineer who’s going to step forward and say rocket science is much more complicated than you think it is. But I’m just going to assume for the time being that it isn’t more complicated than I think it is. Of course, when I talk about rocket science, I’m talking about any situation where there is a relatively simple set of mechanical connections between things. And when I say relatively simple. Obviously a rocket is complicated. But each of the little bits of the rocket is not very complicated. And it’s pretty much the case that when you expect a piece of a rocket to work a particular way. That’s what is going to happen. That is severe. It’ll work that way or it won’t work at all. But when you look at child development, you find that there are several things that go on that are really a lot different from that and then make them more complicated. And one of the things is simply that when we talk about development, we’re talking about change. By definition, development means a kind of change. And when we have change going on, that essentially means that the rules by which the organism works change as development proceeds. So it’s as if you have different rocket ships on different days and in different years of the person’s life, rather than being able to say, well, the rocket ship is the rocket ship, it’s always going to work the same way. We have a situation where our rocket ship, that is the child actually functions differently at different times. Now, a second thing that’s important here is that when you look at development and this is really any kind of natural development, whether it’s children, whether it’s plant growing, whatever it may be, there is a natural variability. And that means both variability, individual differences between people. So that what is true of one child is probably not going to be exactly the same as for another child, but also for any given child. There’s variability within that child. So even at this particular point, we would know what the rules are for how that child works. They are going to be natural variations of around an average point, which, as far as I understand it, is not the case for rocketships. So basically of developing human beings act as what are called dynamic systems. They are systems that are constantly in change and a rocket ship is not supposed to in that way anyway. 

Now, your latest book is Child Development Myths and Misconceptions. And in the book, you distinguish between myths, mistakes and misunderstandings as different types of inaccurate claims. So what are the differences between myths, mistakes and misunderstandings? 

Well, of course, a part of this is just how I chose to use those three alliterative words. But I think there are some basic differences here. A myth is sort of a story that we tell ourselves and other people tell us that story, too. So, for example, we don’t even need to tell each other the myth that sugar causes hyperactivity. All we have to do is have somebody say to was, oh, it’s Halloween. I know my kids are going to be horrible tomorrow. And we hear the myths being stated. So these are being told by us to ourselves, are being told by us to other people. Really, only one or two words is needed to give this whole piece of information. And, you know, most people will believe them. Now, when I say somebody makes a mistake. Obviously, a mitha can be a mistake. But by when I was using the word mistake, but I really meant is that there is erroneous information that’s being used. 

So, for example, back in the 80s, there were many publications, especially newspapers, that stated things about what they called crack babies, babies whose mothers had used crack cocaine during their pregnancy. And the prediction was very, very clear that these babies were going to be an awful shape. Crack babies were broken and there was not people were going to be able to do about them. Well, that turned out not to be the case at all. That was a mistake made on the basis of erroneous information that was available in the same way probably in the 1950s. There was a brief flurry of all the idea that if a child had Down’s syndrome and you gave them glutamic acid in their diet, that this would really fix everything for them. That turned out to be based on a study with a strain of rabbits that were naturally deficient in glutamic acid. So when they got it in their diet, they did a lot better. So that was a mistake based on the information that looked as though it was good. But it wasn’t really another kind of mistake and a very common one is that people fall for the idea that if two things are correlated, then one of them must have caused the other. And a good example of that is a discussion about whether boys who can be violently aggressive are also really likely to be playing aggressive computer games. There is a correlation between the two, but which one causes the other? Does it either cause the other? That’s not something that you can clearly decide on the basis of just what I just said. And it would be a mistake to try to come to that conclusion. OK. So misunderstanding Vaseline, I think the misunderstandings or some of the most interesting things, these arguments, interpretations of information and a lot of the time it has to do with the words that are used. So, for example, a word has a common meaning. And then people hear this word and they assume that whatever the common meanings suggests. Same thing is true technically. So when people talk about emotional bonding or attachment, then a lot of people get the idea. Oh, hey, dad works just the way things do. And it is a cool world. I take my superglue and I sip these two things together. And, you know, A is stuck to B, B is stuck to exactly the same way. Or I tie my boat to the dock. I have attached it and the two are connected to each other in similar ways. But fact is, when we talk about a child being attached to an adult, the child’s attachment is by no means the same kind of process as the adult feeling about the child. And yet a person can misunderstand that they hear attachment, say, oh, I know what attachment means, and then draw a conclusion from from that. A lot of the things that we talk about with respect to psychology in general, child development particularly, are metaphors that we use because we’re talking about things that it’s not easy to see or things that happen over a long period of time. So we we don’t just see them at a glance. But then if we happen to use the wrong metaphore, we may be really led into misunderstanding. And I think a common problem about this is when people talk about a child venting his emotions, you know, as if you say really angry things. And then you won’t feel men anymore. Just the way a steam vent releases the pressure of steam. In fact, that’s not really the way the expression the panicker works. So menopause of words that are misinterpreted. Those are common sources of misunderstandings. 

Okay. Well, thank you for that. And I’m not a parent myself, but I’ve already heard a lot of these myths, mistakes and misunderstandings. And you’ve said that everyone has some knowledge about children because everyone is being a child. And you call these. Everybody knows beliefs. So how accurate are these preconceived ideas in general. That we have about children? 

Well, on the whole, they’re not terribly accurate. And the reason is really that. Well, I guess there’s there are several things. Oh. One is that most of us in the Western world nowadays come from quite small families. You know, there are very few people who are growing up with 10 or 11 brothers or sisters and really getting a lot of opportunity to look at other kids growing up. So they base their beliefs about childhood on the things they remember them. Those selves. But, you know, those memories are really not terribly reliable. They’re rather spotty. You know, we only remember the exciting things. We don’t remember day after day after day. We got up, we put on our clothes. We went out to wait for the school bus. We went to school, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We may remember very little of that. So here we are trying you know, if we only know about ourselves, we’re trying to understand developmental change. We only have a few data points. So it’s as if we’re making a graph with only a few points and then we’re trying to draw a line from point to point to think about what happened in the middle, that Landstar going to be a very accurate line. There are some other issues, too. One is that there, especially in early childhood, there are these horrific individual differences. You know, there are kids who learn to read when they’re four years old. There are other kids who know, learned to read till they’re eight years old or later. We’ll look at those kids at age 21. They’re probably not very different from each other. 

And yet that’s a big difference in their experience. And when each of them looks back, one will say, well, I was a normal kid. I learned to read at four. So why can’t everybody learn to read it for. Or the other child says, you know, I didn’t learn to read till I was eight. They shouldn’t even try to teach kids until they’re eight. Each of those people who’s confused by their own particular eccentricities, which they don’t actually share with most other people. 

And in your book as well, you explain to parents tends to adhere to child-rearing traditions. So why are cultural practices about raising children so deeply embedded? 

Well, there are several things about this. One is that most of us don’t receive very much direct instruction about taking care of children. You know, when when you have a baby, you might be in the hospital for a couple of days. And when you’re in the hospital, you might have a nurse come around and give you a lesson in, you know, how to give a bath, whatever it might be. When you get home, you’re going to find in your mail a little booklet sent from the U.S. Children’s Bureau by your congressman, which you really will get. And it gives you the official set of instructions. You know, the official line about how you’re supposed to take care of babies is a really interesting little book. And when you look at them, you know, as how they change over the decades, it’s really quite interesting. But on the whole, we don’t we don’t get instructions. Instead, what happens? Is that if we have seen things done, we imitate those things. But particularly we have learned attitudes and values about how you do things. And we have learned that because we have seen our own parents and we’ve seen other people respond, maybe not verbal way to things that they say. 

So you see, you know, you’re a five year old and there is a lady in nursing her baby in public. And your mother has an expression of disgust or she has an expression of pleasure, you know, depending on how she feels about this. And you look at her face and you look at those baby and you put those two things together. So we are guided in what we choose to do by that kind of emotional learning to truly hard for people to verbalize. And let me just tell a little story about this, how different people are on this. People from different cultures. There was a case, I think it was in the state of Maine several years ago, and there was a family of Middle Eastern origin. I mean, they were all very assimilated. But, you know, basically they are their cultural background was somewhere in the Middle East and they had a little baby boy. 

And the father did what was expected and acceptable in his family culture. He was so thrilled with having a little boy. He publicly kissed the boy’s penis. Now, the baby sitter saw this was appalled. Call Child Protective Services. They came rushing over and, you know, did actually take the baby away for a couple of days until everybody went to court, you know, and this was all explained. He got anthropologist’s, I guess, to talk about it now for the father. He did the right thing for the baby sitter. He did the wrong thing. He did exactly the same thing. But their experiences with the emotional reactions of other people led them. They have particular attitudes which would then guide how they behaved. So I don’t know whether I’m answering your question here. 

Oh, you certainly are. And I wanted to ask you about personal meaning to you talk about that in the book. And what’s the role of personal meaning in these police? 

Well, they really contribute. First of all, to our sense of identity. You know, what kind of person are you? Are you the kind of father that kisses and takes his penis or not on? You know, and for some people, that’ll mean you’re a great father. And for another one, it would mean, good God. You know, place that child in foster care as fast as possible. But in addition, we all do have some beliefs about ourselves. 

You know, some some people believe that they are victims. Some people believe they’re geniuses. Some people believe they’re bad boys or bad girls. 

And their attitudes about how you should be and their memories that they focus on from their own childhoods. 

Those all have to do with the personal meaning of of various issues for them. You know, for some kids, it really doesn’t matter whether they got chosen first on the playground baseball game for other kids. That’s going to be something that they will remember and focus on forever, whether their parents did particular things, you know. Was your mother at home when you got home from school? You know, there may have been no practical result for you in whether she was there or not, but you can certainly define that, you know, within the context of her own cultural or personal values as having a very important meaning. And you can use that to shape your beliefs about how people ought to behave and to how did these myths and misunderstandings overall develop? 

Well, then it’s really a fascinating question, which is what we say when we can’t really answer it. 

Very well, then let me see if I can makes some efforts here. 

One of the things is that everybody has heard some things. Everybody has heard some things about who children or who parents are, how things are supposed to be. And we tell each other these things. 

Now, in modern life, people see stories in the newspaper. They’ve seen things on websites. They repeat things to each other. We tell jokes or we tell stories that can gain, you know, the the germ of a particular idea. 

But where they actually began. 

Well, one thing is that there have been folk beliefs about how children develop, presumably as long as they have been talking human beings. So that’s one thing. Some of these folk beliefs are still around. There are also times when people generalize from other material. For example, a lot of people now in the days have seen pictures of the the little ducks following Conrad Lauryn’s. They had imprinted on Conrad Rantzen set off on their regular duck mother. And so they say, oh, hey, that’s how it works with ducks. I guess that’s how it works through human beings, too. Now, it turns out that’s not how it works with human beings. But, you know, it’s not a silly thing to generalize in that way. It just happens to be the wrong result at this point. You know, there’s there’s one other thing that I want to mention, because this is something I’m working on right now. I’m really interested in trying to figure out to what extent there are real historical factors in this. And I don’t mean the folk beliefs. I mean, do we have old practices and old philosophies or belief systems that still somehow hang on? They don’t easily go away. I call it the trailing edge theory. You know, that they’re going to be ideas which were once extremely fashionable and well thought of, and then people stop being so interested in them. But maybe they’re still hanging around. So, for example, on a blog that I do, I’ve noticed that there is one post that gets read, you know, day after day after day, hundreds of times. And it’s about babies making eye contact. Now, this idea that you got to have eye contact and eye contact is the most important thing around. I think that those can be traced back to the Victorian period where everybody was very interested in hypnotism and everybody believed that, in fact, the power of the hypnotist, I could make you do things. 

And as I said, I’m working on those right now. I’m writing a book about it. As a matter of fact, and I can’t really say that at this point, certainly that I could swear it, that there are a lot of myths that are due to historical factors. 

But anyway, I’m having a good time delving into them. 

So, yeah, that sounds very interesting. I’ve heard about the theory of joint attention in anthropology as well with other primates. You so child development is often dangerously misunderstood. And you had the recent experience as an expert witness in the trial of a mother who’d kept her adopted children in cages and claimed that she’d read a book advising this. So what are some of the serious repercussions of these misconceptions? 

Well, obviously, you can have seriously abusive treatment of children as a result of these misunderstandings. However, there are a lot of other things like. What happened to that aren’t quite that bad, but we shouldn’t forget that they can happen. For example, right now in California, there is a big struggle about legislation, about video games. 

They’ve got a group of people who are claiming that video games caused children to be violently aggressive. We have another group of people who are saying, no, it certainly does not. Actually, most of the information available says, no, it doesn’t. But when you have people who are inclined to be aggressive, they really like violent games. So they play them. So cause and effect, maybe the opposite way around. But in any case, we’re having what I considered to be probably a great waste of people’s time and resources that is involved with this legislation, which is going to appeals court after appeals court. So we can have a lot of trouble that’s caused by myths and misunderstandings. There really has to do with people throwing their their time and resources into this when it’s probably not appropriate. Now, another example would be then this is getting more towards the real obvious harm that you were talking about. Would it be on people’s beliefs about children as eyewitnesses to crime or as reporters of abuse? You’ve got a group of people who have always declared that children are never right about this, that when children say that they were abused by an adult, they’re lying. They just want to get that person in trouble. They should not ever, ever be believed. We have another group who says whatever they say, they are always right. And if they say that at the McMartin preschool, the teacher brought in a pony and had it sodomized somebody, that that must be true. OK, either direction either one of these maps is going to cause a whole lot of trouble. It can cause trouble by having people punished when they didn’t do anything and can have caused trouble by letting people off the hook when in fact they did do something wrong. 

You and I had just read of a number of very dangerous some Itzin misconceptions in your book, including attachment therapy. That’s one of the dangerous ones. And a lot of the pseudo scientific therapies seem to have the semblance of science. So what information can we trust? 

I suppose my my first suggestion here would be don’t be too hasty. You know, most things we don’t have to decide about them right now. If some you know, nobody’s bleeding or vomiting and there’s nobody whose pupils are not the same size, then you don’t have to do it right now. So take a little time. But I would say you really need to go back to the original research. Newspapers and websites, even text books, quite often don’t necessarily tell you accurately what was done to try to collect this information so that that’s one thing. You know, don’t don’t accept somebody else’s word for it. But there are two other things. One is you would really like to see that whatever the findings were, there was an independent replication of them. I mean, somebody else did the same kind of study, somebody who didn’t have a big commitment to it, and they came out with similar findings. Another thing would be that you want to make sure, if you possibly can, that research was done on a reassembly diverse population. There’s a lot of argument about this right now, and I think rightly so. 

When we have a lot of child development information that was derived from middle class or upper middle class families, you know, almost all European and background living near a university, which is why they got chosen to be in this study. Can we generalize from that to a poverty stricken of no non European background group of people who are living without access to important resources? Maybe we can and maybe we can’t, but we really need to have some information that shows that we can before we do it. 

And you’ve said, too, that in general, since we’re not experts, we’re not qualified to evaluate all claims. So often we evaluate the source of the claim instead. 

All right. Well, and what is the problem with that? One of the things is that a lot of the people who want to tell us things about child development are not the people that we can trust. They are people who want to. To sell us something. And it may not be, you know, an object, but it may be an idea. 

It may be a service. It may be our pressure on the school board to have a particular kind of of resources for children. And they may be. 

These people may be able to present themselves as if they are rarely very trustworthy. 

For example, I was asked the other day to go over a set of credentials that psychologists had on his website and to just make a list of which ones were reasonably good credentials and which ones were not. And in fact, they were they were all real in the sense that there were organizations which gave these credentials. But they were also all meaningless in these for all organizations that you just paid your dues to and you got your membership. And I don’t know whether you have heard of the story of Zoe decamps. And this was all over the Internet several years ago. There was a psychologist who was told by one of his clients that the client was going to go give the guy down the street instead. He had bought initials after his name and he didn’t talk as much. So the psychologist started looking into what initials the guy had and he had the membership in a particular organization. And when the psychologist looked this up on the Internet, he said, hey, anybody can join this. And he proved this by having his cap join it. 


Now, his cap was AME’s, so he and he signed her up under the name. So 8D CATSA. And she got a very nice diploma. And what’s more, they threw in an extra diploma. So she was now a diploma made of the American Hypnotherapy Association. 

Very accomplished. So the thing is, you really have to pay attention to the details. I hate to say this because this is really tough, you know, for people who just want a simple answer to a simple question. 

But it’s so easy nowadays for people to make themselves look good. You just you know, you you have to be aware that people who are trustworthy recognize that there are questions and issues. They don’t just tell you one thing over and over again. Maybe that’s one of the keys. 

Lots of luck. So if. 

Near head of a similar story to the story that you just told in Australia, and I think it was a dog. The dog’s owners set up the dog with a natural path clinic. And just to show how easy it is for anyone to to set up a clinic like that in these unregulated industries, it’s pretty easy to do that, to trick them. But you’re right. Everyone needs to to go in research the credentials of the people that they’re entrusting their children with. 

Right. Right, exactly. 

So just moving on, there’s an emphasis on evidence based practice in psychology and psychiatry. How often is this approach applied to the branch of child development? 

Well, when you talk about evidence based practice, the word practice is there. OK. So when we talk about evidence based practice, we’re talking about examining the effectiveness of interventions of various kinds. And part of child development is about that. But a lot of child development is not about that. So rather than saying that we wanted, you know, everything to be to meet the rules for evidence based practice, we would really have to say that for a lot of the things that people are looking at, I mean, like there’s videogames thing. That’s not an intervention. You’re not going to go and say, kids, sit here and watch, you know, play this game for the next 24 hours. We have to have appropriate ways to systematically investigate things of that kind to. But if you really want to talk about evidence based practice and what we would do for, say, child psychotherapies of various kinds. Yes. This is extremely important. In fact, in my opinion, it’s more important that we have evidence based practice in dealing with children. Dealing with adults and my reasoning is that children can’t make these decisions by themselves. You know, the parents as their guardians or stewards are making the decision for someone else. You want to make darn sure you get it right. If that’s what you are doing because you’re not the one who’s going to suffer if you’re wrong. I do want to point out that we get a lot of people who are claiming an evidence basis without having one. And part of that is that most people don’t really know what it means to have an evidence basis. They see it testimonial and they think that’s an evidence basis. Of course it isn’t. And we even have people who are doing things that are not safe and claiming they have an evidence basis. In The New York Times on the front page yesterday morning, there was a very disturbing story about a boy who was asphyxiated by being restrained in a prone position as a kid with autism, 13 years old. The you know, his residential school staff person sat on him for a period of time and killed him. Now, there are people out there who are saying it’s the right thing to restrain the child in that way and saying that they have evidence that it’s right and completely ignoring this extremely adverse event. 

Well, I think evidence isn’t necessarily proof, and it’s quite clear that we need to apply critical thinking to evidence based practice as well. Right. 

Can I just say one more thing about this? 

So I would say that when you’re looking at child development and you have information that has come through education, that is not people who are psychologists or clinical social workers or whatever, but who are particularly involved in educational endeavors, they are really, really terrible about establishing evidentiary support for anything that they do. 

Most of the choices made in the education field are ideological choices rather than choices that have to do with evidence. But be that as it may, you know, to say that something is evidence based. There isn’t any good housekeeping seal of approval here. You know, there are there are two things. One, the obvious one is you’ve got to pay attention to exactly what happened. You know, how did they do this study? The only thing is that there are different levels of evidence. Not everything is testable at the highest level of the evidence because there are some things that you can’t control. You can’t manage them. You know, you just have to wait for it to happen. And so it’s never going to be at the randomized trial level. 

All right. And of course, with child development, you’ve said that it’s a very young fields and that it’s full of unanswered questions still. And so just a couple more questions. So some of the myths in your book, a well known to skeptics, for example, the myth that vaccines cause autism and that the Mozart effect doesn’t exist. What are some of the more surprising myths that you’ve encountered in your research? 

Well, I ran into one over the last few months. I had kind of heard of it before, but somehow I just didn’t even take it in that people thought. And this is called the primal wound theory. The primal wound theory is something that people talk about in so-called adoption community and especially adult adoptees talk about this. Their idea is that before they were born, they formed an emotional attachment to their birth mother. And then when they were born, they knew that was their mother and they were taken away and placed with somebody else, and they were very, very, very desperately upset, angry and grieved by death. And we’ll never recover. Now, I don’t know. That sounded sort of sarcastic the way I said that, and I don’t mean to, you know, fail to be sympathetic to the various issues of people growing up in India, adoptive family. There are lots of problems that adoptive parents and children can have with each other, although, in fact, most of them do extremely well. But what I’m getting at here is that there is absolutely no reason to think that a baby at birth. Knows or cares who its mother is. Now there is evidence that they will work harder to listen to their mother’s voice than to a stranger’s force. And they’ve been hearing their mother’s voice, you know, through the muffling of her belly for some period of time now. But that’s not the same as caring about it. OK. 

So, you know, I can tell. I don’t know what tomato is from Plum’s, but. But that doesn’t mean that, you know, I’m desperately grieved that I’m separated from my tomato. 

Well, are there any religious organizations behind the idea of the primal wound? 

It sounds faintly religious. 

It does sound faintly religious, and I’m afraid, though, that what I have to do in talking about it is abandoned the word religious, which to me means, you know, some kind of organized thinking and go over to that completely undefined term spiritual because it is because behind that kind of thinking is a set of beliefs that, first of all, assume that human beings have a nonmaterial component which existed before they were conceived and which will continue to exist after they die. And that because we’ve got this component, we are able to remember with a lot of help, some really important things like how things were when we got conceived. OK. And, of course, how things were before we go and see it and how things were in our past lives, then, you know, way, way, way back. But because we could remember when we were conceived, then, of course, we could remember everything about gestation because that’s a much more recent. So there are organizations that actually do promote this kind of thinking. And one is called the Association for Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health, which certainly sounds like an admirable group to wish you would give money, you know, if they had a jar on the counter at this 7-Eleven. But in fact, you know, they are pretty directly responsible for a certain amount of this thinking. And, of course, they are connected with a couple of people who reported and published on what it’s like to be a baby and to get porn and so on. And the reason they know is that when they did LSD, they experienced it. 

Oh, well. 

So I don’t know what you want in the way of evidence, if I want to. Yes. 

Well, you’re making me wonder in saying that, do you think that there are a lot of spiritual beliefs that are underpinning these myths and misconceptions in general? 

Well, there are certainly a lot of strongly value oriented factors that are underpinning some of the myths, most of the ones that you come across in everyday life. You know, if if you’re not going out looking for the nuttier ones, the way that I have the most of the ones you come across in everyday life, they are congruent with religious beliefs. But I don’t know that they’re directly caused by them on the whole. Where you have religious beliefs that that promote a particular kind of child rearing. The most common connection is supporting a great deal of physical punishment. So you have these particularly fundamentalist Christian groups who are telling you that from the time your baby is four months old, you must beat them with a willow switch if you have it, and some plastic plumbing supply line if you don’t have that. And that’s how you are going to break their will and make them acceptable to God. But I don’t think that that’s a common belief. Now, there are a lot of beliefs about physical punishment. You know, many of which are really garbled and not congruent with what is known about how learning works. But that’s not exactly the kind of thing that that you’re talking about. I mean, I don’t. And maybe, you know, I just don’t have enough religious experience. But I don’t think that most organized churches or other religious groups would say that a baby can remember its conception. 

Well, I just stop. You could see some kind of link there between spiritual beliefs and some of the these myths. So I thought I would ask about us. All right. 

No, I think you’re right that there are some. But it doesn’t go as far as you might think it would. 

Sure. Sure. Okay. And just in closing, I’d like to ask my guests for a soundbite about their particular area of expertize. So, Jeanne, what’s your soundbite about child development for our point of inquiry listeners? 

All right. My soundbite is actually a quotation. And this is from the great developmental scientist, John Piaget. And he said children are cognitive aliens. And by that, he meant that they are so different from us in their ways of thinking about things that they might as well come from another planet. And I would say that that’s probably true about their physical and emotional lives, too. And I think that if we focus on thinking about children in that way, that rather than sort of, you know, mini us, we’re more likely to think clearly about them. If we want to foster critical thinking, our own critical thinking about how children develop, we shouldn’t think about them as just like us. 

And so there we have it. Aliens do exist. 

Not though. Nevertheless, they have spinach for dinner, huh? 

Which they won’t as we know it. Well, Jeanne, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you today. 

Thank you, Karen. I’ve enjoyed it a great deal. 

So in case you have not heard, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry is holding a conference Psychon on October 27 through the 30th in New Orleans. That’s Halloween weekend. It’s going to feature an amazing speaker list. Bill Nye, Harriet Hall, Lawrence Krauss, Paul Offit, James Randi, Phil play, Rebecca Watson, Barbara Forrest, as well as some really fantastic events, including a Mardi Gras parade and costume party and a Whodini sounds. All of that and more on the boundary of the bayou. It will be a conference like no other. So go to the Web site Sci. Conference dot org, that CSI conference dot org and secure your spot today. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry. You can find out more about Jean on her blog, Child Myths at Child Myths, dot blogspot, dot com and locate her book. Child Development Myths and Misunderstandings from the Point of Inquiry Home Page to participate in the online conversation about this show. Please join our discussion forum at point of inquiry dot org. The views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry n affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on today’s show can be sent to feedback at the point of inquiry dot org. 

Point of inquiry is produced by Adam Isaach in Amherst, New York. And our music is composed by Emmy Award winning Mike Wilen. Today’s show also featured contributions from Debbie Goddard. I’m your host, Karen Stollznow. 

Karen Stollznow