Maria Falikman, HSE - on gadgets and their role in children's development, gender stereotypes and the cultural paradigm of Russia

Maria Falikman— Head of the HSE School of Psychology, Professor, HSE Faculty of Social Sciences,

Leading Research Fellow at the Laboratory for Cognitive Studies.

Winner of the Prize of the Contest of Young Researchers of Moscow State University named after MV Lomonosov. Winner of the National Competition "Golden Psyche" in the nomination "Book of the Year in Psychology."

— Now you are the head of a department at the Higher School of Economics, and you used to be more involved in research.If you had time in the future, what kind of research would you like to do?

— Everything is very interesting with psychology now — on the one hand, they are growingtools, fundamentally new methods of data analysis are being developed, which help toOn the other hand, they expose the researcher to all sorts of subtle patterns.psychology in the crisis of reproducibility, when it turned out that the most high-profile and famous experiments of the 20th century were not reproducible — and that's it.And now everyone is trying to reproduce old experiments in one way or another, to understand why it doesn't work and under what conditions it works.

My own domain is visual attention, and I can't say that I've answered all the questions in this area for myself.Questions about how a person findsIn a noisy environment, on a display or in a natural visual scene, this ability develops with age.

I am also interested in the formation and enlargement of the units of information we process, for example, how we perceive words that consist ofWhy are letters in a word better recognizable than just individual letters, where are the limits of such enlargement of units...

- It seems to me that your field of study is now quite popular. For example, there are studies that children in infancy distinguish a living object from a nonliving, and much more.

- There are quite a few methods that allowfor example, to understand that a young child - a pre-verbal child - really understands whether the language label refers to that object or to the picture that is shown to him. He can distinguish the number of objects demonstrated to him. Yes, it does not know how to count, but if we, for example, show many pictures in a row on which there are two objects, and then we suddenly show a picture in which there are three objects, the child will look at such an image longer.


This can be fixed by registering.movements of his eyes, in particular, the duration of fixation of the gaze. And, really, this all appears very early, and also all this is very interesting. Modern methods, not only experimental psychology, in which I work, but also recordings of brain activity, allow us to answer questions about how brain networks - functional systems that are behind the solution of a particular problem - at a very early age.

— In your opinion, together with which scientists it is necessary to develop experimental psychology?In what direction is it most interesting to move now?

For example, cognitive science is a field that is not narrowed down to psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, computer modeling, and artificial intelligence.It's such a complex interdisciplinary field, where every bridge between fields canI'm interested in the bridge between psychology and cultural anthropology.A bridge that allows us to answer the question of how our cognitive processes are formed in the course of evolution, what is formed under the influence of culture, how new cultural practices and cultural artifacts, numerous wonderful gadgets, without which we can no longer live, affectThey doOur attention and memory are different, different from what they had before.

— In general, how do you assess the influence of gadgets on a person from the point of view of psychology?This is a rather broad question, I understand.

"It is not necessary to evaluate, but first to take it for granted, and then to study how it happens, because this influence has already happened.It may be asked: how do we assess the impact of the invention of the wheel or the impact of the advent of writing?But we can't say anything about writing, because it appeared too long ago, and a child is actually born in a world where sign systems are used.Now a child is born into a world where there are tablets, mobile phones, and the Internet.And all these devices also build his perception and movements in a certain way.Because these movements, by means of which a person controls technical devices, such as a tablet, are mastered by an adultarbitrarily long and slowly, and the child often interacts with intuitive interfaces, and by the age of three canNaturally, gadgets rebuild the functional systems of the child's brain in a certain way, just like any cultural tool.

When you give a spoon to a child, the spoon is a cultural objectIt can be taken in a certain way, brought to the mouth at a certain angle, and otherwise it will not work.The new technical devices are a thousand times more complex, but they representThey are the same spoons in which certain cultural practices are "sewn".

- There are opinions of some people, psychologists in thatincluding the fact that the influence of gadgets on children affects negatively - and their mental abilities, and so on. There were even quite contradictory studies, where in one case it was said that various gadgets have a good influence on people, including children, even games, while other studies have completely refuted this, but there is no consensus on this matter. And what is your position?

- There is no unanimous opinion. Even the answer to the question of how we can assess the influence of gadgets on a child’s mental abilities is not obvious, if the tools for measuring our mental abilities are all taken from the pre-gadget era. There are a huge number of computer simulators that are quite useful for themselves - they slightly increase the amount of working memory, improve the retention of voluntary attention in a certain range. But, again, if a person spends computer games not an hour a day, but, conditionally, 20 hours a day, then we have a lot of side variables invading: from motivational and personal factors down to dependence on the required amount of sleep. And here to speak about the impact of the possibility of technology as such is not possible and appropriate for me. Yes, these devices rebuild our memory, it becomes not so. We are starting to memorize not the content, but the requests for which we could find some information. But can it be said that they make memory unnecessary? Memory was buried, and when they invented typography, and in ancient Egypt, when they invented writing. It cannot be said that they finally buried her, we still have it somehow. We just delegated some of the functions to the cultural facility, and now we are doing the same. Another question, and if suddenly all electricity is cut off? And what shall we do then?


- Now there are several generations: our great-grandmothers / grandmothers, mothers and fathers, you and me, our children. And each generation has a diametrically opposite view of identical things. Including gender issues. How do you assess the relationship between how our cultural paradigm is developing, due to the fact that there are more gadgets around us, we are immersed in science, technology, everything is robotized. How do our social ties develop between each other?

It's more of a question for gender and social psychologists who work in this area.Now there is a growing interest in gender psychology in the country.even at HSE, we are opening a new interdisciplinary Master's programme in Gender Studies, where colleagues are going to study both stereotypes about women and men and their social behaviour.But I would say that, on the whole, our country continues toTraditional kindergarten story: boys are soldiers, girls are princesses.It doesn't go anywhere even in today's kindergartens.

My son's boys were bugs and girls were beautiful butterflies.At the same time, the boys collected blue balls, and the girls collected yellow ones.

— Yes, this border continues to be drawn and dictated by society, including at the level of the country's leadership.This system of patriarchy, the system of the head of the family, is not going anywhere.At the same time, if you look at young people in the capital, it doesn't matter whether we take Moscow, St Petersburg or one of the major cities, for example, Vladivostok, the situation there will most likely be similar to Europe or America.If we take a small provincial town, we will see a history typical of the Soviet Union, or maybeIn this regard, our country is quite ambivalent.

- This duality, in fact, was still inSoviet Union - Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg, feminists, women managers and technicians. At the same time, there are films a la “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears” and “Office Romance”, where the idea was conveyed that a woman cannot be strong, but she needs a bad, but little man. Therefore, what do you think is the reason for this duality?

- This duality is connected, on the one hand, witha very strong tradition that continues to be supported by the state, on the other hand, with globalization. In particular, the Internet just tore apart many boundaries that continued to exist even when the first mass tourist trips abroad began, when a lot of new fiction began to be translated.

If we take the era of the USSR, there are toughfixed stereotypes of who will be the person of a particular profession. Of course, there could have been a man - an elementary school teacher, or a kindergarten teacher, or a cosmonaut woman, one in a hundred. There was a more fixed distribution among specialists of one kind or another. Now, by themselves, these new professions and the ability to work remotely - copywriters, developers, etc. - give no preference in one direction or another. We can no longer see this hard division, who works and earns, and who sits at home and is engaged in raising children. Although in our country more often a woman is involved in raising children.

— How long do you think it will take for traditional views to change, and how can and should it be changed?

- I would say that it was very long, slow andpainfully, simply because from above there is an installation on traditional values, spiritual bonds and, ultimately, patriarchy. Such foundations need to be changed. And, again, perhaps the new generation, which has already arrived and which is just coming, sees the picture somehow differently. From my bell tower you can see it this way, you - from your bell tower - may already see it somehow differently. This is a different lens, and we don’t know how today’s primary and secondary school students will see it, although they are more often raised by the same teachers in line with the same traditional values. And the optics that have been formed for us forces us to accept certain obligations on ourselves, because, in fact, if this social role in this country is interpreted in this way and you have absorbed such an interpretation, yes, you feel certain social expectations with all sides. And learn to behave in this way, and not in another way. Relatively speaking, after giving birth to a child, you cannot say: you guys do whatever you want here, and I went to work.

- Is Ageism strong with us? Not only gender stereotypes, but age?

- He is with us, so to speak, on both sidesThe continuum is very strong, because older people, who are being tried to engage in all kinds of socially useful activities in the West, have at some point turned out to be and they feel rather useless. Although there are opposite situations when a person sits in his workplace, being no longer very socially useful, simply because he is sitting there - this, in my opinion, is more of a Soviet legacy.


- Let me give you an example: Five or seven years ago, the feminist agenda was for the “holy fools,” but now even in my editorial office, male colleagues use feminitives, which is normal. It’s not shameful for them to work under the leadership of a woman, although it would have been strange about 15 years ago. Now the rate of change is much higher. Accordingly, the conflicts that took place in the 19th century were associated with a smaller change of opinion.

- Look, I can’t say what they might be.some serious conflicts or showdowns, rather, this is a misunderstanding among representatives of different generations. At the same time, take all the fiction of the 19th century - this is such a constant conflict between fathers and sons. Wherever you point, even Turgenev, even Pushkin, even Tolstoy. It has always been this way and will always be so. Another thing is that we need to talk about a greater speed of change due to the narrowing of the gap between conventional age cohorts. But, in general, I don't see any big differences. In the 19th century, the idea of ​​family was much stronger, so when a traditional conflict arose within the family between the generation of parents and the generation of children, it could be experienced more painfully. Nowadays, parents often do not understand the new words used to describe their children’s professions. And children can pursue career growth, but the parent may not really understand what kind of area this is - simply at the level of not knowing the terminology, such as pre-sale or front-end. In general, I am not inclined to see this as a problem.

— If you believe numerous studies, the older a person is, the less flexible his brain is to perceive new information in large quantities.

— If we talk about cognitive aging asSo, yes, indeed, after 27 years our cognitive abilities begin to decline, but this does not mean that we cannot learn something. If you want, you can learn something new even at a very old age, and even in very old people the brain is rebuilt under the influence of learning. Perhaps more slowly, perhaps at greater expense, but there would be a desire. Another thing is that if a person is comfortable in the world in which he is accustomed, then he simply may not want it. For the older generation, this new online world is a way out of their comfort zone. And the question is whether a person is ready to make the transition or not. At one time, I greatly admired the Mekhmatov professors who, at the beginning of the era of mass programming, in the 90s, mastered programming languages ​​and emigrated, say, to the States. And they held quite serious positions in companies there, simply because they had the brains and skills, and then the work was a success. A person wanted and mastered it, or he might not want and not master it.

— Is there any place for stereotypes, age or gender, in this new world with new professions?

- Stereotypes, unfortunately, are always there. People tend to simplify. A stereotype is such a way of simplifying reality, attributing to an object a whole set of properties based on some of its characteristics. “Ah, he is an absent-minded professor, everything is clear about him”, “And, Caucasian, everything about him is clear”, “Blonde, everything is clear about her too”. And this, in a sense, from the point of view of a psychologist, is cognitive savings and effort savings. Therefore, stereotypes have always been and will be. But their very content will change.


- Now the stereotypes are changing, and then they will be different? Not "programming is not for women"?

- I think the stereotype "You are too young totell me what to do ”will die first. In today's culture, it is the young who speak older ones, more and more often, what and how to do. Just better understanding modern management tools, modern technology, and so on, modern business processes. That is, here, relatively speaking, the very type of society has changed. In a traditional society, parents or the older generation teach the younger, and now the younger generation is the first to master the attributes of the present time. And, in fact, the elder can do nothing but learn from the younger. In leadership positions in a huge number of companies now you can see not elderly and honored figures, but people of 35 and even younger.

- You know, I go to the playground, I work, thenI am in society. But I see that fathers began to appear more often on the playgrounds, to bring children to additional classes, the behavior began to change as a result. Maybe the change is still here and now?

- Do you know what’s interesting here?This behavior still attracts attention. That is, we notice it and focus attention on it. “Wow, dads brought their children to the pool” or “Wow, dads are walking with their children on the playground.” This is still perceived even by us as something not entirely characteristic of our culture. Like some kind of feat on the part of dads, unlike mom, on whose part this is not a feat, it’s usually - mom walks, but what a great dad, he walks. And I don’t yet see that this is a complete departure from the stereotype of unequal gender roles, so to speak.

— What are you going to do next? How do you see your career if you are going back into research?

- You know, the speed of change in our cultureit is such that it becomes rather difficult to predict even one step ahead. Suddenly, they will develop an artificial intelligence system, which, for example, will be able to fully take on managerial functions, and then untie the hands for research. What if neuroscience methods are improved to such an extent that experimental psychology is simply not needed, because the explanation from neuroscience will be exhaustive. Just have to go to study, study and learn. Who knows how it can turn.