Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Brennan Blogs: 9 Year Olds Giving Love Advice?

Today I was on yahoo's front page and saw an article about how some 9 year old named Alec Greven wrote a nationally published book called "How to Talk to Girls." Suffice to say, I've got a trip to Barnes & Noble scheduled for tomorrow. Actually, this revelation got me thinking - are children the wisest of us all? I think this requires discussion.

Many psychologists and therapists believe that most of human behavior, what many call "character," is ingrained in us by the time we reach five years old. Yes, this means that when you just discovered you had a pee-pee or a pink taco, while the opposite sex did not, you likely had already settled in to who you would always be. If that was a personal revelation for you (the pee-pee/pink taco thing)... you're five years old, WHY are you reading this blog? Go find a Pokemon stat!

So why does the world of psychology theorize this? It is simply because of neuropsychology and some basic common sense.

From a neuropsychological standpoint, the brain is much like building a city, a city which continues to be built into your late teens and early 20's. You start with a flat piece of land and then you start to create buildings and infrastructure. Before you know it, the highways/roads are set (neuropathways), the homes/building are all there (synapses), and you no longer have room to build, because it (one's brain structure) is all set and the only remaining task is to "maintain." The growing population (new information) of urban sprawl continues, but many (much of that new information) are lost among the shuffle as you continue to "maintain." Excuse the complicated metaphor, let me back track and make it really simple. Basically, you are born with a blank piece of mush called your brain and as time goes on, you fill it up with stuff. As more stuff gets in, your brain has to form some structure in order to organize all the information. Once the brain has found the structure that allows you to most effectively function, it becomes set as it relies on this reliable structure for your continued functionality. For the remainder of your life, after this structure is set, your brain uses all its resources to take in the new information and put it on the shelf like a librarian would with a returned book. One's basic processing resources are used up putting away new pieces of information while also maintaining the information that is already there. Because almost all of your "CPU" resources are used up in this manner, it makes it increasingly more difficult to take in more new information and make such new information readily accessible (or influential on your thought process). What this means is that, from a neurological standpoint, the information you get in the beginning of your life is much more fluid and accessible. However, as your brain fills up, it has to organize itself which means that any new information has to conform to that basic imprinted structure. Accordingly, new information has a difficult task of overwhelming ingrained old information, thus why much of who you are is neurologically determined at such a young age. Essentially, your thought processes become much more rigid and stubborn.

Although this might be redundant given the whole monologue above, from a common sense and more "pure" psychological standpoint, just think of your brain as a sponge - a sponge which does most of its "soaking up" within the first 5 years of life. A dry sponge will soak up moisture with extreme efficiency. Why? Because there is nothing there and moisture fills the space. However, a wet sponge will only soak up moisture very slowly. Why? Because most of the space is taken, so the moisture must search out the small gaps of space to fill... a more complex and elongated process. This is the very reason why all you parents out there should try to teach your children how to play a musical instrument or how to speak foreign languages as soon as possible - children are more amiable at those ages. It becomes increasingly more difficult to learn such things later in life as the sponge fills up. Yes, often it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

So how does all this neuropsychological mumbo-jumbo relate to my original point that children, as the open sponges they are, might be the wisest of us all? Because just that, they are open sponges, meaning open minded and capable of approaching life without the same ingrained biases that comes with years of built up cynicism born as a consequence of life's ups and downs. Children are pure and that purity can provide an enlightened or surprisingly "clean" perspective.

Babies and dogs always like me. I have a theory as to why. I believe that babies and dogs are so uncomplicated that they don't over-think things, so they see me for who I really am (and yes, I'm not so subtly implying I am a freaking great human being). Children see the world without a filter (for good or bad) because they have not lived long enough to gain one. A 5 year old can enjoy just about any movie because s/he has yet to have seen the dozens of copycats already out on the market, so any movie is likely still novel to them. A 7 year old can demand macaroni and cheese for every meal, because s/he can appreciate its simplicity being that they haven't experienced even better food or just haven't lived long enough to get tired of it and need some variety. Finally, a 9 year old, such as Alec Greven, can shrug off girls and see them girls for what they are because he has yet to experience the heartache and disappointment which comes as a consequence from the process of finding companionship.

Children have no cynical-colored glasses, so they can see things for what they are. That doesn't always make them the most wise, but it sure does often make them among the most insightful. Of course, this unfortunately comes with the price of not understanding the consequences for their actions, but that's what parents are for, right? Up until the point children gain that inevitable cynicism and internalize their parents, maybe they are the ones we should look to for for a reality check. Maybe we should not be so dismissive of the young as inexperienced and naive, but rather seek them out for the unfiltered, innocent, and transparent perspectives they may offer. At least, that's what I'll be doing tomorrow when I hit the local Barnes & Noble.

Take Advice From This Guy

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