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Home > Research Articles > Being Social Is A Key Component To Creating An Enriched Environment That Stimulates Cognitive Development

American Psychological Association

Monday, April 15, 2002

PRESCHOOLERS SEEKING NOVEL STIMULI MAY DEVELOP HIGHER IQ'S, SAYS NEW RESEARCH Being Social Is A Key Component To Creating An Enriched Environment That Stimulates Cognitive Development WASHINGTON - Toddlers who physically explore their environment, engage socially with other children and verbally interact with adults are likely to have better scholastic and reading abilities as teenagers compared to less engaging toddlers. The reason, suggest the researchers who study predictors of intelligence, is that these children create their own stimulating environment thus facilitating their own cognitive ability. These findings are reported on in the April issue of the American 's (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. To determine this relationship between toddler's stimulation seeking behavior and later intelligence, psychologist Adrian Raine, Ph.D., of the University of Southern California and co-authors collected intelligence, cognitive and sociability measures on 1,795 children at age three. At age 11, the children's school achievement, reading ability and neuropsychological tests were evaluated and compared to the early measures. Those three-year-olds that exhibited high stimulation behaviors at age three scored 12 points higher on total IQ at age 11 compared with low stimulation seekers. The high stimulation seekers also had superior scholastic and reading abilities at age 11. Gender, ethnic group and parents' education or occupation was ruled out as influences on a child's approach to new stimuli, according to the authors. The authors believe that young children who actively learn about their environments by playing with other children and asking their parents questions create for themselves an enriched, stimulating, varied and challenging environment, said Dr. Raine. "This enriched environment in turn results in enhanced cognitive ability and better school performance later on." It could be, suggests Raine, that high levels of physical activity that don't involve social reciprocity may not necessarily facilitate or reflect superior intellectual performance in young children. Social involvement may be the crucial factor that increases cognitive ability later on. The social component of sensation seeking at age three compared to the other sensation seeking components (ex. assembling blocks, copying shapes, identifying people and objects) better predicted superior cognitive abilities, said the authors. "The children who were more gregarious at age three had the higher intelligence scores." Implications for these findings, according to Raine, are that "stimulation-seeking children may provide for themselves a more potent and continuous environmental enrichment than traditional educational enrichment can provide, and this environment, in contrast to programs, can produce long-term IQ changes that last throughout childhood." Article: "Stimulation Seeking and Intelligence: A Prospective Longitudinal Study," Adrian Raine, Ph.D., Chandra Reynolds, Ph.D., Peter H. Venables, Ph.D., and Sandra A. Mednick, Ph.D., University of Southern California; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 82, No. 4.