Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Which cognitive skills are best developed early?

  1. Feb 5, 2017 #1
    So some skills are best developed early. For example, its better to learn a language while young than old.

    So what type of cognitive skills should be developed, say, before someones 30s? What can be pushed off until later?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2017 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I would say all of the cognitive skills should be learned as early as possible. The 30's is quite old to be learning basic cognitive skills. What did you have in mind?
  4. Feb 5, 2017 #3
    There are several. Physical insight, mathematical maturity and computer programming skills. I believe I already have some physical insight and math maturity.

    I wonder if it is prudent to hold off on the math and physics and focus all my efforts on coding, being that the software industry is ever expanding and I would like to be prepared just in case.

    But if I were to do that, I'm afraid that my math and physics skills would decline. But I suspect that since I have learned it well before, I can just pick it up at anytime somewhere down the line.
  5. Feb 6, 2017 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Ah, so you are interested in more advanced cognitive skills. If you were good at picking up things when you were younger and kept up with learning, your brain will be able to deal with learning new things. Just keep challenging yourself, puzzles, there are free websites that have games you can play that sharpen your mind , reactions, cognition, matching. These are fun and will keep you sharp, just don't get addicted.

    It seems everything I google on it seems to want to sell a course.
  6. Feb 6, 2017 #5
    All skills are better developed early. Evo-devo cognitive neuropsychology is the field I deal with and, unofficially, I can say that there is a window before about the age of 12 where these "left brain" skills can really be developed proficiently. After about 12-13 the efficacy of training drops precipitously. So I agree with Evo in that cognitive/artistic skills should be learned at an early an age as possible.

    I don't have any kids yet, but if I ever do, I know when and how to train them. The question is how hard you want to push them and in what capacity? I think it may be constructive to this discussion to say what I personally would do if I, say, had two newborns I wanted to see educated in an ideal fashion.

    Again, and I think I may have dealt with this issue in an earlier post, but I would push hard on the so-called hard left brain skills between the ages of 4-12, especially 7-12. My research conforms largely to the Piagetian model of cognitive development so these stages relate roughly to the concrete and formal operation stages of cognitive development in that model.

    It's too involved to go into in this short post, but there are neurodevelopmentary reasons why these are the age ranges where you want to have your kids buckle down and study. After 12-14 it's a whole different process of learning.

    Back to the example, if I had two infants, I would put them through the general curriculum of the school but I would encourage (force) the learning of a harmony musical instrument such as the guitar or piano as early as possible. It doesn't matter which one, both would be better. The same thing with mathematical training. These are both left-brain skills and have an optimal window for development, as describe above. Right-brain skills don't seem to have the same rigid constraints on developmental timing but right-brain capacities are also not subject to the same quantifiable assessment that left-brain skills are.
  7. Feb 6, 2017 #6
    I have simple opinion. "Memorize everything" skills. Like photography skills
  8. Feb 6, 2017 #7
    When I was a kid, I never tried so I don't know if I was good at learning new things. I didn't feel like a prodigy though. But somehow, in high school, I was able to learn the entire 4 year curriculum of math in just one year. I also excelled in college, but my rate of improvement wasn't as drastic.

    I recently purchased a bootcamp course for computer science that is supposed make me a google/facebook level coder in a few months. But I noticed that its really time consuming. It's cutting into my work, and also my learning of physics.
  9. Feb 6, 2017 #8

    I'm curious if there's any research on the influence of extreme effort to overcome this age barrier. For example, most people that were not good at math wouldn't just sit down and do math all day for years just to see if they improve. So I imagine that it would be hard to test for this with an ethical longitudinal study.

    I do suspect that there might be room for improvement. Say the left brain is inefficient for math for someone in their late twenties. After 5 hours a day on math, it's still equally as inefficient. After 7 hours, maybe. But what about the extremes? Say 12-14 hours doing math daily for say 5 years? Maybe this is the threshold to break that barrier and under these extreme conditions the neurons start connecting in a new way.

    Also, what about medications? Are there any that is suspected to have long term positive effects on cognition?
  10. Feb 6, 2017 #9
    That's possible. But I am more interested in improving the way the brain thinks.

    I've recently started learning computer algorithms and one of the things I've learned is that some are much more efficient than others. Solving problems from memory alone is like an extreme exhaustive search. It just takes too much time. But if the algorithm is good, you can find the solution without having to traverse everything in memory. I'm interested in improving the algorithm.
  11. Feb 6, 2017 #10
    I think music has been very beneficial with my son and has helped him surpass the expectations due to his prematurity. (Born at 25 weeks). I started playing classical guitar for him as soon as the hospital let me (about 3 months of age, but 0 months adjusted!) and he's currently enrolled in a Music Together class where he attends with my wife and mostly squiggles around and maybe bangs on something. :) I also sit him in front of the piano at home a few minutes a day and let him bang away. I admit I *might* be biased but I think he sounds like Thelonious Monk.

    Aside from the normal counting activities, counting songs and such, I feel that music is the closest thing I can give him to mathematics right now. I try to play a lot of melodic sequences for him and other very patterned type music in addition to regular music. I have no evidence that this does anything, but I'd like to think it's affecting something in his brain in a positive way.

    The things my son has no choice in learning are: piano, guitar, spanish (that's mostly my wife, but we have bilingual toys and I do my best), and we will start programming in Scratch as soon as he can do it, but for now I'm limiting his exposure to electronic stuff. I grew up with gizmos everywhere and I think it contributed to some of my attention issues.

    Sorry to be all about my son, but that's where I'm at now!

    -Dave K
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted