Benefits of Early Childhood Education

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Children from low-income families who have been intensively educated in early life are being treated by others with a high level of honesty in the middle age, more than 40 years later, although they are fair, they come with high personal costs, according to a new study published today Natural communication.

78 people in the study were followed by the Abecedarian Project, launched in the 1970s and still one of the longest running randomized controlled early-childhood outcomes studies in low-income and high-risk family families.

Participants played games designed to measure their compliance with social standards and their social decision-making processes. In one game, the player was asked to split the amount of money – $ 20 – with another participant. The participant could either accept the proposed amount or reject it, in which case it received no money. When participants had to deal with unequal bids, they had to deal with their own interests and the enforcement of social standards of equality.

The value of early childhood education has been shown here. Players who underwent intense training in the 1970s, including cognitive and social stimulation when they were little children, strongly rejected the unequal distribution of money amongst middle-aged players, even if it meant they would lose significant financial gains themselves.

"When someone rejects the offer, it sends a very strong signal to another player to decide how the money should be distributed," said Professor Psychology Professor Sébastien Héta, the first author of the study, the Université de Montréal. "People who have been educated as part of the" Abecedarian Project "project tended to accept the same bids in general, but rejected reluctant and beneficial offers, in fact punishing transgressions they consider to be outside the social norm of equality.

Originally developed and led by Craig Ramey, professor and senior scientist at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, the Abecedarian project examines the impact of intensive early-childhood education on language and learning in disadvantaged children. The new research includes an international group of scientists led by neurologist Virginia Tech Read Montague, in whose laboratory he was a post-doc collaborator before coming to Montreal.

Using computational modeling, researchers have discovered differences in social decision-making strategies among participants. For example, in another game, players who have received early educational interventions are still thinking about the future in the future than people who did not.

"Participants who received early educational interventions were very sensitive to inequality, whether it was their advantage or their disadvantage," said Yi Luo, the first author of the study and a postdoctoral associate at the Montague Laboratory. "Our results also indicate that they place more emphasis on the long-term benefits of enforcing social standards, as opposed to short-term benefits for personal gain."

She concluded: "Our research shows that investing in early childhood education, particularly in the education of highly vulnerable children from low-income families, can bring long-term effects to decision-making even decades after education."

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More information:
Yi Luo et al., Early childhood investment influences social decision-making four decades later, Natural communication (2018). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-018-07138-5

Magazine links:
Natural communication

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