Why Your Mind Is Like a Shark: Testing the Idea of Mutualism
We want to understand how children get so much better at certain cognitive abilities like reading, writing, and problem solving as they get older. To better understand this, we followed hundreds of children across a period of years, to see how abilities like problem solving and vocabulary changed over time. We found that having good vocabulary to start with made children’s problem solving develop more quickly. It also worked the other way around: being better at problem solving meant children were quicker to learn new words. In other words, each cognitive ability may help other abilities develop. This idea is called mutualism. We were very excited by this discovery, because it can help us understand how children get better at things they never practice directly, and how teachers can better help children who find certain school topics more challenging.