Conversing over cocktails

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Once upon a time, I took several semesters of noncredit Spanish classes. I did OK in reading, but in situations where I needed to speak to someone in Spanish I froze up. Maybe I should’ve had a cocktail first.

A study by the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University, and King’s College London found that people who drank a small amount of alcohol were judged to have better pronunciation in a foreign language. Alcohol impairs executive function including the ability to remember things, so it should hamper speaking a second language. But it also lessens social anxiety.

Interestingly, in this study, outside observers rated those who had consumed a low dose of alcohol significantly better speakers than the control group who had non-alcoholic beverages . The actual participants did not rate themselves higher.

So if you try this at home, stick to only one drink and don’t judge yourself. You’re conversing better than you think.

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Pareto strikes again

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All those records of people’s lives are finally proving useful.

Researchers have tapped into New Zealand’s extensive digital databases to examine the lives of 1000 subjects from birth to age 38. They found that the Pareto Principle, or more commonly the 80/20 rule, holds true for illegal and other non-desirable behaviors.

The scientists from Duke University, King’s College London, and the University of Otago in New Zealand say 20% of those studied accounted for a whopping 81% of incarcerations, 77 % of fatherless child rearing, 75 % of drug prescriptions, and 66% of welfare benefits plus more than half of nights in the hospital and cigarettes smoked. They were more likely to be obese and to file personal injury claims too.

In the study, they gave participants tests at age three to measure what they called “brain health.” This consisted of intelligence, language and motor skills, frustration tolerance, restlessness, and impulsiveness. Low scores in brain health even at such an early age predicted high healthcare and social costs as adults.

The results point to the continuing need for early interventions with disadvantaged children. The components of brain health can be taught or improved upon. Such education would benefit not only the individual children but ultimately society as a whole.

Lead researcher Avshalom Caspi says the return on investments to undertake this sort of intervention would be remarkable. Indeed.

Educators, what kinds of interventions have you seen in your community?