Neuromythology

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This article by Dr Piotr Wozniak is part of SuperMemo Guru series on memory, learning, creativity, and problem solving.

Explosion of mythology

Myth speed-busting

The number of myths and misconceptions about the brain is overwhelming. We have an extensive Myths section on this site to tackle misconception that are not obviously wrong. However, there aren't sufficiently many years in a lifetime to tackle all myths. Some myths are so ridiculous that they can be best dismissed in just a few short words. Many myths are dumb enough to provide a license for a semi-dumb rebuttal. In this text, brevity and humor take precedence over scientific precision.

Poster boy: Manfred Spitzer

The ultimate incentive to set up this page was a series of lectures by Dr Manfred Spitzer, who is a notorious opponent of digital technologies and a father of the term Digital Dementia. Spitzer is very popular with parents who think that school is more important than Educational freedom. His lectures are delivered in a captivating Trumpian style: everything is the worst or the best or the greatest (or the "dumpest" (sic!)). According to Spitzer, the biggest threat to all children are digital technologies, which destroy passion for the "best thing in the world": school. It is little coincidence that Spitzer comes from the land where children educational rights are one of the most limited in Europe. Germany is high on discipline, but poor on the freedom to learn. Homeschooling is illegal in Germany.

Spitzer claims are particularly alluring as he is a professor of "neuropsychiatry" and sprinkles his lectures with support for good ideas, which we all instinctively known to be true, such as the value of exercise, human relations, face-to-face interaction, family, grandchildren, outdoors, nature, etc.

Fears of technology

Neuromythologists provide parents with a great deal of fake guidance that deprive children of access to the greatest educational blessings of the modern world. While Spitzer is likely pretty aware of his cynical game of inflating the fears, the actual fears of technology are real. As Danny Greenberg explains it well, those fears are alien to children. The fears are born in the heads of adults who themselves have been subjected to rigorous schooling. See Greenberg's excellent diagnosis: Banishing Fear

On good educators

Spitzer is no educator. He oozes an aura of an omniscient teacher. Spitzer does not talk to children in the way John Holt did. You can instantly see a difference in reasoning and emotion in somebody's writing. While Holt talks to children with love, compassion and true curiosity. Spitzer speaks to everyone from the position of authority. The difference between Spitzer and Holt is a bit like the difference between Trump and Biden. Biden listens to people with empathy. Holt loved children. Trump loves himself.

Neuro myths

Myth: School should teach you to do things you do not like

Learning is pleasurable (see: Pleasure of learning). Teachers often say "the most important thing about school is to learn doing things you do not like doing". This claim results in criminal consequences of coercive schooling, which robs children of the main tool needed to develop intelligence. See: Compulsory schooling must end

For detailed explanation of this myth see: Central myth of the teachers' lobby

Myth: If your head is empty at 18, you have no future

Manfred Spitzer believes in schools. He believes that the first 18 years of life should be spent on diligent study. He claims that if those first 18 years are spent inefficiently, the rest of the life is doomed to failure. This is wrong on two counts. (1) Children learn all the time: at school and outside school. The most effective way to reduce child's learning is to handcuff her in a dark dungeon. Forcing kids to sit in benches during uninteresting lectures is also pretty bad. (2) Adults retain their ability to learn for life. The best weapon in support of lifelong learning is the learn drive. Paradoxically, most people lose their learn drive as a result of coercive learning at school.

Myth: The worst thing to do at school is to Google

Manfred Spitzer says: "if you really want to learn something, do not Google, read a newspaper". As I am currently interested in intermittent fasting, and its relationship with the circadian cycle, I wonder which "newspaper" I should read?

Myth: Hyperlinks make it hard to focus on the text

This is a matter of digital literacy. People who use web texts often know when and why they need to click on a link. At this site, hyperlinks play a vital role in explaining complex terminology that needs to be defined precisely. The reader is supposed to click a link when a term is hard to understand (or interesting), and painlessly ignore the same link in the future

Myth: Digital technologies cause shortsightedness

Myopia is caused by a life in the "near world". Books are as bad as tablets. It would be more accurate to say "education causes myopia". However, digital technologies can actually come to rescue (e.g. by casting images on remote surfaces). See: Harm of eyeglasses.

Myth: An iPad gift is child abuse

iPads provide an incredible range of educational options that enable happy learning. For a free child, an iPad is a great educational gift. Sending kids early to school without their approval, as prescribed by Spitzer, is much closer to child abuse. No abuse makes a child happy. Which is more likely to make a child smile: iPad or school?

Myth: Smartphone on the desk reduces IQ

IQ is supposed to be a reflection of intelligence (see: IQ is a dismal measure of intelligence). Lisa Ling agreed to be an experimental subject and found that the phone can indeed invoke a degree of stress response, esp. when producers are calling. However, I doubt she regrets lost intelligence. If anything, a smartphone may cause a dip in attention. The solution is simple: turn it off and take it away. Spitzer goes as far as to convert the drop in IQ to lifetime earnings. His audience was told that a smartphone on the desk can cost $100,000. Tell it to a farmer in Kenya who optimizes his crops with the device!

Myth: Smartphone increases ADHD

I presume that a person who does not meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD will not become an ADHD sufferer as a result of the smartphone use (as implied by Spitzer's wording). As for actual ADHD, a smartphone can make things worse (e.g. if it is used for homework), or it can make things better, if it satisfies the insatiable curiosity of a creatively hyperactive individual. The most likely link between smartphones and ADHD is that kids who show high creativity and a powerful learn drive will also abhor school and coercive learning. Those will be first to be fingered as "sick" by their teachers. Once they get medicated, they may contribute to the myth: smartphones cause ADHD! See: Myth: Smartphones cause ADHD

Myth: PlayStation will make learning halt

Spitzer claims that parents should not buy PlayStation as a gift because the grades at school will plummet, and the learning will stop. In fact, grades may indeed plummet, but grades at school should never be used as a measure of progress. Pleasurable learning is superior to coercive learning. PlayStation is attractive for its learning opportunities. While grades may suffer, intelligence and multiple other skills will benefit

Myth: Digital technologies cause dementia

Digital technologies are a blessing for intelligence. See: The morbid myth of Digital Dementia

Myth: Digital technologies cause cancer

Manfred Spitzer notes correctly that if digital technologies cause stress, they have their contribution to cancer. But the link is so hazy and complex, that mentioning cancer in the context of the Internet would justify converting my own obsession with the harm of schooling into Schools cause cancer (source). After all, it is well known fact that fresh air is much healthier than indoors life, incl. the impact of closed spaces on cancer. If you sit in the class, your risk of cancer is greater than if you play outdoors (in unpolluted air)

Myth: Digital technologies result in superficial processing

Digital technologies are a blessing for deep reading, creative thinking, problem solving, etc. Superficiality is a reflection of low learntropy or distraction (incl. creativity). Superficiality is far more prevalent at school or when reading books. Digital technologies provide a freedom of choice which improves learntropy and "deep processing". See: Pleasure of learning

Myth: Computers inhibit academic achievement

Computers are attractive because of high learntropy. As such they can drag children away from boring academic instruction. However, they also provide best educational tools of the day. A computer with access to the Internet can now already compete with human teachers.

Myth: Electronic books are bad for reading

Manfred Spitzer says "electronic children books are the worst thing you can buy to teach reading. They have a Read button!" In reality, cocaine or heroin are worse for reading than e-books. Kids who have nobody around to read for them would rather not read paper books, but may follow the text if it is voiced by a computer. Meaningful input is the basis of learning to read. When the adults are not available, e-books can help, or even provide a better equivalent. Children love to be in control. Videogames are the best modern tool for learning to read without a teacher and without displeasure. This can be confirmed by research and by the opinion of children themselves. Teacher's are not longer necessary

Myth: Digital literacy takes 5 min

Manfred Spitzer claims that an 18-year-old can become digitally literate in minutes: just "click and browse". In reality the world of the web is a landscape of richness never known to man. Explorations can take a lifetime and "media literacy" can be compared to metacognitive skills that also take a lifetime to develop. The number of tools and tricks to master seems infinite. Good use of knowledge, skepticism, e-social intelligence, netiquette, knowledge of sources, knowledge of threats, blogging, banking, payments, communication, etc. The list is endless. Spitzer might be right: a digital noob can get confused in the flood of hyperlinks

Myth: Screens are bad for learning

Manfred Spitzer says "there is no learning from a screen. There must be a person". In reality, highly independent kids learn best when nobody disturbs them. YouTube is a good example of non-interfering presentation that works wonders for many (even for small kids)

Myth: Screens shut down frontal lobes

Dr Victoria Dunckley claims she magically cured many children of a mysterious Electronic Screen Syndrome by simply stealing their tablets or laptops. As a psychiatrist, she "knows" that frontal lobes get shut down when children play computer games. If she had an iota of understanding of computer games, she would know that gaming opens a vast unexplored field of educational opportunity. The future does not belong to on-line courses. That's a digitized version of school. The future belongs to simulations of real life situations. This is largely what gaming is all about. See: Victoria Dunckley's mythical Electronic Screen Syndrome. See also: PhET simulations

Myth: Reading is good for education, clicking is not

It is better to click and read great stuff than to read whatever is dished out at school. The myth comes from the great Spitzer educational program called: "Make school great again". On January 6, 2021, we could see that there is no happy ending to that story.

Myth: You cannot learn a language from a screen

When a Dutch guy told Spitzer he learned English from computer games, Manfred dismissed him in a Trump-like manner: "Small kids cannot learn a language from a screen". He added that it would make more sense to have a girlfriend who speaks the language. I also learned written English from a screen, and so do most of my young friends who speak any reasonable English. Those include "small kids" who love YouTube and gaming. As for the girlfriend, I recall one Nigerian lady who motivated me to learn to speak English. However, she had other interests. Screens are more forgiving. On a lucky day, a screen can deliver a girlfriend from a remote land too

Myth: Kids who use a phone in class learn less

Phones make it possible to learn more. Instead of a boring teacher, kids can watch the same lecture delivered by a better performer (as long as the teacher does not disrupt that learning effort)

Myth: Google makes you stupid

Nicholas Carr says "Google makes you stupid". In reality, "Google makes us smarter". Those who mindlessly listen to Carr or Spitzer are at far greater risk of becoming less smart than average

Myth: Internet addition is a global problem

Internet is the greatest technological blessing for humanity along the invention of print and the like. When Spitzer confuses love and passion with addiction, he makes psychiatrist's grave error #1: taking new behaviors as pathological even if they are beneficial for the "patient". See: Reward diversity in preventing addictions

Myth: TikTok makes students depressed and forgetful

Students get depressed as a result of coercive schooling. Depression is bad for learning and memory. When depressed students get back home, they often find comfort in TikTok. When scientists want to "prove" that TikTok is bad, they only need to measure the correlations between the use of TikTok, depression and the span of short-term memory. See: Scientists invent TikTok use disorder (TTUD)

Myth: iPad inhibits perceptual development

Spitzer says that "iPad has not texture and inhibits perceptual development". It would be equivalent to a claim that books inhibit the ability to admire sunsets. After playing with an iPad, the kid can help her mom peel potatoes and fiddle with textures to her brain's content

Myth: Tablets involve the same set of useless motions

Calligraphy is a lovely exercise, so is typing with 10 fingers. Tablet gaming involves all imaginable complex 2D motions that translate to 3D spaces. More advanced gaming system involve the entire body in 3D spaces. Soon, digital technologies will provide the best procedural training sets for skill development and for therapy. In 10-15 years it will be hard to be the best tennis player without digital assistance in procedural training

Myth: Digital media cause digital amnesia

The term digital amnesia is probably a mutation of Digital Dementia "invented" by Manfred Spitzer. See: The morbid myth of Digital Dementia

Myth: Digital media lead to a faulty processing of information

Manfred Spitzer claims that digital media have an inherent flaw that makes correct information processing hard or impossible. The web of neuromyths is so complex that it is hard to know what exactly is meant by this claim. Is it about deep reading, digital dementia, attention problems, overwhelm, addiction? My claim is the exact opposite: if you want to maximize the rate of learning, use incremental reading (which by definition is digital)

Myth: Books are better than the web

Teachers like books. They provide linear instructions to the student. A well-schooled child may also prefer linear instructions as they require no intellectual overhead. A true explorer likes to explore the world of knowledge. Web is the best medium for exploration. Books are also important, and they can best be processed with incremental reading (i.e. digitally)

Myth: Paper is better than screens

Manfred Spitzer says that reading from screens is less efficient than reading from the paper. People print PDFs, and nobody scans a book to read it on the screen. In reality, for learning and research screens are vastly superior. Print can be scaled. Text can be translated. Keywords can be searched for. Hyperlink can be followed easily. Only a Luddite could see paper as superior. As for scanning a book, it is rarely practical. Most of the books have already been scanned professionally.

Myth: Digital amnesia has already affected the world

The myth of dementia has affected all unprofessional media who parrot their stories without checking sources, and without an iota of critical thinking

Myth: School is best for learning

Manfred Spitzer says that the best way to become a lifelong learner is to learn as much as possible at school. In reality, the best way to become a lifelong learner is to retain love of learning that school destroys

Myth: Google undermines the status of teachers

No good teacher should fear Google. Children love to interact with wise people who answer difficult questions. Digitally literate children know best which questions are hard to answer with Google, and which questions are best discussed interactively with a wise adult, with a peer or with a younger child. Google helps redefine the role of a teacher. See: Do we need teachers?

Myth: School ensures fastest learning

Spitzer says: "fast learning is based on knowledge" and "knowledge is what you get from school". He adds "you are ready for Google at 18". In reality, best knowledge is obtained with self-learning. School attempts to give you knowledge on the timeline established by someone else. Google gives you knowledge when you need it (even at 4)(see: Letteracy). I have spent all my life working on "fast learning". This is why I became a critic of schools. The only fast learning that happens at school is cramming for tests. It is always followed by even faster forgetting

Myth: Problems with school fade with maturity

As kids grow up, problems at school often diminish. Spitzer says that it is because of the fact that kids become mature. In reality, the most powerful factor of tameness at school is learned helplessness. This exposes kids to the risk of depression

Myth: Facebook gives you a cocaine brain

Manfred Spitzer compares the brain of a Facebook user to the brain of a cocaine addict in withdrawal after a shot of a drug. This comparison is actually pretty accurate. Both Facebook and drugs activate reward centers. The main difference is that it would probably be difficult to compete with the reward of a narcotic drug. However, natural rewards are a good thing. The reward centers evolved to reward behaviors that are good for survival. All forms of learning, incl. learning from Facebook, should be pleasurable and healthy. It is possible to generate variable reward or penalties with Facebook, which may lead to mild addiction. However, all forms of learning have this potential. It is up to the user to approach learning and Facebook wisely.

Myth: Computer games are addictive as you keep exceeding expectations

Reward prediction error affect motivation. That motivation is mediated by dopamine. However, it is not true that gaming (or drugs) will make learning unattractive. It is not true that you will constantly need to exceed expectations. If you practice increading, your reward is constant. You do not need to exceed your expectations to have fun reading. Reward of reading or the fun of living are your best ways to prevent addictions. See: Simple formula for a happy life

Myth: Facebook makes you depressed

Ignoring the educational potential of Facebook, Manfred Spitzer adds that social media make people depressed and even lead to suicide. It is not much different than saying that social interaction in general has a potential to make people depressed. However, the same interaction can make people very happy too. It all depends on wisdom, strategies, mental health, socialization and resilience. Facebook may amplify an existing problem. We should focus on eliminating causes of problems, not banning social media. Facebook reward is primarily derived from the learning reward. Even if social media works a bit like cocaine, cocaine is largely harmless for healthy brains who simply opt to never try or to quit after trying. People who suffer from mood disorders are 2-3 times more likely to be at a risk of cocaine addiction. The exact same mechanism is involved in Facebook use. For a typical healthy user, Facebook is a great place to socialize, to learn, and to do social research.

See also: Horrible proposition of Dr Jonathan Haidt

Myth: Social media harm children

Many people believe that social media experts design their product to keep people hooked. In reality, the magic of social algorithms is primarily in that they maximize learning. A healthy brain will use social media to its benefit and reap great rewards in learning, inspiration, or new contacts. It is a schooled or unhappy brain that goes to social media for comfort. The problem is with the brain, not with the algorithms. See: Myth: Our brains can get hacked by algorithms

Myth: There is no such thing as knowledge on demand

Spitzer claims that without knowledge, information cannot be accessed. He says that this is best illustrated by the phenomenon of Morbus Google (i.e. hypochondria induced by Googling about diseases). In fact, a 4-year-old with some basic knowledge of giraffes can google and find out why giraffes sleep. With google, even a little child can usefully expand her knowledge. Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power. Cyberchondria is not remedied by ignorance and avoidance of Google. It is best cured by coherent learning

Myth: Children have excellent memory

Spitzer says "play a memory game with a 5-year-old and you will lose". In reality, children experience childhood amnesia, and may be incapable of asemantic learning. They metacognitive skills are negligible. There are areas in which children excel because they have not been affected by schooling (see: 50 bad habits learned at school). Children learn vocabulary of their native language by processing hundreds or thousands of language patterns over months and years. An adult can memorize a word pair in 2-4 seconds. No child can ever compete in learning with a well-prepared adult

Myth: End of handwriting is a crime

Spitzer insists that handwriting makes the brain grow. So does riding unicycles or writing with one's foot. Even a 3-year-old seems more pragmatic: voice writing is easier. Let the brain grow while achieving worthy self-elected pursuits. Steve Jobs loved calligraphy. Stephen Hawking had different preferences. Let the child choose

Myth: Kids who watch TV are more likely to become criminals

Some pathologies may increase both TV time and propensity for crime. Neglected children may provide for the correlation. For a healthy child surrounded with love, self-selected and self-dosed TV programming is a great form of education

Myth: Digital media destroy empathy

Manfred Spitzer says that computers are bad for empathy because "we do not see people". Arguably, new technologies make it easier for people to see each other even at a distance. However, a different form of empathy and emotional intelligence is needed when operating in digital environments. A 6-year-old will show a different form of empathy for a human and for a character in a game. As virtual worlds cannot be escaped, early digital literacy includes the skills of social interaction in digital environments. An adult who enters the world of team games on the web can be socially and emotionally confused like a 3-year-old on a busy street.

Myth: Screen-time undermines empathy

It is possible that people with low empathy love screens more. More time in the virtual world implies less time in the real world. However, there is a new form of empathy that needs to be learned: digital empathy. Virtual worlds are confusing for those who have not been immersed in it for a longer while. There are many signals we need to learn to recognize for the sake of emotional and social intelligence in the new digital world. Any child can tell you that it is very easy to recognize a noob in a team game played on the net

Myth: You cannot watch two lectures at the same time

Yes, you can. Just remember to pause one when you switch to the other. This is how incremental video works. I watched many of Spitzer lectures in parallel to provide for good comparative analysis of his neuromythology. While Spitzer would want us to avoid multi-tasking, he does not seem to admit that new technologies make it easy, possible and effective. Part of the power of incremental reading comes from easy switching between subject. This is highly efficient serialized multi-tasking

Myth: Brain is a paradoxical bucket

Spitzer is almost correct saying that the brain is a paradoxical bucket: the more you put in, the more it can hold. Obviously, the brain's volume is limited. However, it is true that learning increases the surface of the knowledge tree (i.e. the set of available semantic anchors). It is true that learning facilitates further learning. However, to make a good use of this phenomenon, we need to follow the learn drive (see: Knowledge and creativity). Otherwise, we may fail to produce an appropriate semantic match due to the excess semantic distance between pieces of knowledge. This excess distance is exactly what happens at school, which is hailed by Spitzer as an alleged vehicle of good learning. School fails to efficiently capitalize on prior knowledge (see: Jigsaw puzzle metaphor)

Myth: Senior's blessing is a child's anathema

Spitzer claims that computers are a blessing for older people as they stimulate cognitive processes and help prevent Alzheimer's. He is right. However, in the same breath he adds that digital technologies make children stupid. A simple truth is that computers, independent of age, are excellent learning tools that promote brain health if used judiciously. The benefit is proportional to high quality learning. Naturally, great cognitive benefits come with a great excitement, which has it side effects. If the kid plays computer games till 4 am, the benefits wane. See: Gaming disorder

Myth: Reliance on the Internet is dangerous

Spitzer suggests we should not rely on the Internet too much because once we get cut off, it would be hard to re-adapt. The same is true of all technologies. Our high dependence is usually a reflection of high usefulness. It would be hard to live without electricity too. However, few people practice the art of starting fires in case they were deprived of electric light in the night. Even candles are losing their popularity as a backup system.

Myth: We need to protect children from fake news

Manfred Spitzer claims that the brain has no "fake news detector". As a result, it is vulnerable to information that is incongruent with the scientific viewpoint. This is why Spitzer thinks that Google makes you stupid and should be banned at teen age as much as owning a gun or driving a car.

This claim may explain why the teachings of Spitzer as so incoherent. He clearly has a well-schooled interpretation of the way in which the brain tackles incoherent knowledge. If there is a piece of research stating an incoherent claim, Spitzer feels justified to announce it as a scientific fact. Serially!

When we want to figure out truths about this world, we should seek consensus knowledge, and if it is not satisfactory, or if it is particularly important, we should seek inspiration from all imaginable sources, including those which are largely unreliable. We do not need fake detectors, because knowledge tends to verify itself through its consistency. Gaps are filled with new propositions, and those tend to be questioned when contradictions are detected. It is possible to build wrong models, but wrong models are also valuable (see: Value of wrong models).

Spitzer says that (1) the best defense against fake news is knowledge, and (2) the best source of knowledge foundation is school. If so, Spitzer proves himself wrong as I insist his claims are patently false. If my opinion stems from my abysmal ignorance based on weak skepticism, 26 year of schooling served as no protection.

Spitzers says that children should gain knowledge first to be protected from falsities. In Spitzer's mind, the way a 3 year old learns is different in that contradictions can survive and knowledge consistency is threatened. The opposite is true. Rich exposure to diversified knowledge, and diversified sources are the best form of protection. A child voluntarily collects appropriate knowledge that maximizes learntropy vis-à-vis prior knowledge. Contradictions are seeded, detected, and eliminated in the same was as in the adult (even if the extent of knowledge and its stability are significantly reduced). Coercively gained knowledge has poor coherence, and is subject to perpetual interference. Knowledge gained in a well-schooled fashion is also more likely to be of low in coherence, and thus high inconsistency. Spitzer seems to be a good demonstration of the problem he speaks about.

See: On the superiority of a rat over a schooled human

Myth: German Ministry of Education promotes stupidity

Dr Spitzer says that "when German Ministry of Education promotes PlayStations, it promotes stupidity". It seems Ministry of Education is resistant to scare mongering. Sadly, Germany has a bigger problem: homeschooling is illegal. PlayStations will not substitute for freedom. See: Declaration of Educational Emancipation

Myth: Multilingualism delays dementia by 10 years

Dr Spitzer claims that bilingualism adds 5 years to brain's "lifespan" by delaying dementia. I am not sure about the source of that claim, but when he adds that multilingualism adds another 5 years, then it all starts sounding too perfect and too rounded. As if there was no law of diminishing returns. Perhaps multilingual people lead better lifestyles. Perhaps it makes more sense to learn a programming language instead of Swahili? If you say I should do my own research to verify Spitzer's claim, I say "No way!". Spitzer is a Trump of neuroscience. It is impossible to keep up with fact checking. Even if learning a language was so beneficial, I do not have spare resources to go in that direction. I would find learning to play the piano more interesting. I can take a big bet that happy piano would be better for the brain than unhappy Korean. See: One language for the world

Myth: There are no multiple intelligences

The brain is a concept network. Each concept contributes to intelligence. If we build up a great deal of concepts associated with music, we will show good musical intelligence. Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences has been criticized by those who believe in the mystical factor g and those who believe Gardner's list is too short or incorrect. In reality, any list of intelligence will be arbitrary and Gardner's list can be seen as just one pragmatic classification. We can develop an limitless number of intelligences such as those needed for solving a Rubik cube, mental calculations, bird spotting, etc. All we need is long hours of meaningful training in a given domain. We may be hobbled in our intelligence by pathological or biased wiring. It is rare for a deaf person to show good musical intelligence. It is also hard for a native Chinese to speak English without an accent. It is all about the trajectory of conceptualization. In contrast, a great deal of folks believe in just one type of intelligence: "you do well at school, you are intelligent" (aka an IQ measure). The reader does not belong to this group. He would not get to this point in reading without being upset with all anti-school heresy

Myth: The Internet is bad

When asked about the value of democratization and the role of the Internet, Manfred Spitzer noticed more important forces:

The Internet empowers the U.S. National Security Agency and total state control in countries like the People’s Republic of China. Compared to the possibilities for espionage into our heads today, the Stasi was a joke. We are being spied upon and we freely take part in it

For more see: Myth: Our brains can get hacked by algorithms

Myth: Web brings stress

Eric Schmidt of Google noticed that we get bombarded with more and more information and it is stressful. However, this is only a problem of information management. All push technologies can be turned off. All notifications can be silenced. The devices can be turned off. We can employ Google search and focus only on things of interest. If we happen to open too many tabs in the browser, we can suck them all in for prioritized reading in SuperMemo. Once we contemplate a single pieces of information in front of our eyes (or in the mind), exploring the world is highly pleasurable (and healthy). The richness of the web amplifies the value of knowledge, its good effects on our lives, and the positive impact on the mind.

Manfred Spitzer is right. It is not the information that is the source of stress, it is the lack of control. The richness of information can be controlled with incremental reading.

Myth: Dumb people can be identified by the Dunning–Kruger effect

Dunning–Kruger effect is used by arrogant people to mock those they consider foolish. Instead, those who evoke the myth should look in the mirror. The evokers have likely been well-schooled.

See: Myth: Dunning–Kruger effect is a scientific fact

Myth: Your children will be grateful for your being a bad cop

Limiting freedoms is bad for development. Being an authoritarian parent is bad for development. The myth is based on experts' claims that research shows many young adults express a wish for their parents to be more disciplinarian in terms of schooling, nutrition, exercise, or social media. However, it is not valid to claim that stealing food is good simply because some obese individuals wished someone restricted their food intake during periods of weight gain.

Some traces of the Stockholm syndrome may make kids of authoritarian parents "grateful", but true gratefulness will only come from love and assistance in development.

See: Optimization of behavioral spaces in development

Myth: Early education brings the richest fruit

Early education usually brings the richest misery. Early harm is cumulative. Early reading makes sense only if it is a child's choice. Early education works best if it is child-directed.

See: Education cannot be constrained by developmental milestones, Don't teach your child to read

Myth: Frontal lobes develop till the age of 30

Frontal lobes indeed develop for three decades and then some more. However, the magic deadline of 30 may be used to say that teens are not mature enough to make serious decisions in life.

I sympathize with a view that kids should be free to learn and explore as long as possible. However, freedom from specialization should not be dogmatic. If a 6-year-old wants to go to work, he should be free to do so. If she opts to specialize as an influencer at the age of 4, she should be free to do so. As for the freedom to be a teen mother, it is a bit complex, and out of my field. However, I know many happy teen moms, who have super-smart teen daughters ready to enrich this world with 30-year-old grandmothers. At magic 30, those ladies will make fantastic decisions at granny-level complexity/maturity.

See: Education cannot be constrained by developmental milestones



For more texts on memory, learning, sleep, creativity, and problem solving, see Super Memory Guru