Our friend, the Brain

The BBC reports on what it calls a “wealth gap”, in the way the prefrontal cortex of children of differing income families respond to experimental stimuli.

Let me point out that this is giving privilege to the high-income children. Experimentally, there is a difference in brain activity, and the researchers say simply:

She said: “Children who grow up in a different environment may have very different early experiences, and may process information differently than children from a different environment.

The response is different, but the BBC is happy to put the level of activity on an evaluative sliding scale between which points there is a gap. This reminds me of the issue of IQ tests, which privilege a certain type of cognitive ability which is “middle-class”.

During the test, an image the children had not been briefed to expect was flashed onto a screen, and their brain responses were measured.

Those from lower income families showed a lower prefrontal cortex response to it than those from wealthier households.

I would enjoy turning this around and saying that children from higher-income families become habituated to fixed structures easier, and have more difficulty in accepting the unexpected. Personally, I find this more interesting, and it certainly holds an anecdotal truth for me – imagine neurotic, hyper-vigilant parents bringing their children up in a controlled environment, to the detriment of the child’s ability think flexibly.