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 Department of Psychology at the HSE, Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the HSE,

Leading Researcher of the Laboratory of Cognitive Research.

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 the department at the HSE,previously engaged in more research. Now, probably, there is not enough time for them. If you had time later, what specific research would you like to do?

- Now everything is very interesting with psychology - withOn the one hand, instrumental capabilities are growing, fundamentally new data analysis methods are being developed, which help to catch all sorts of subtle patterns that previously passed by the researcher. On the other hand, they subject psychology to a crisis of reproducibility, when it turned out that the loudest and most famous experiments of the 20th century cannot be reproduced - that's all. And now everyone is trying to somehow reproduce the old experiments, to understand why it is impossible and under what conditions it turns out.

My own field is visual attention. I can not say that I have answered for myself all the questions in this area. Questions about how a person finds the desired object in an informationally noisy environment, on the display or the natural visual scene, how this ability develops with age are still relevant.

Still interested in the formation and integration of unitsthe information we process. For example, how do we perceive words that seem to consist of individual configurations of letters. Why letters in the composition of a word are identified better than just single letters, where the limits of such a consolidation 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 is it necessary to develop experimental psychology? What is the most interesting direction to move now?

- This is already happening. For example, cognitive science is a field not restricted to psychology, neurobiology, linguistics, computer modeling, and artificial intelligence. This is such a complex interdisciplinary field, where each bridge between the regions can give some results. I am now 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 develops under the influence of culture, how new cultural practices and cultural artifacts, numerous wonderful gadgets, without which we can not live, affect our knowledge and integrate into our knowledge. They make our attention and memory different, different from what it was before.

- How do you, in principle, assess from the point of view of psychology the influence of gadgets on a person? This is a pretty broad question, I understand.

- Here we must not evaluate, but first take asa due, and then study how it happens, because this influence has already happened. One may ask: how do we evaluate the influence of the invention of the wheel or the influence of the appearance of writing? But we can’t say anything about writing, because it appeared too long ago, and the child is actually born in a world where sign systems are used. Now the child is born in a world where there are tablets, mobile phones, the Internet. And also all these devices in a certain way build both its perception and movements. Because these movements, through which a person controls technical devices, use the same tablet, an adult person masters arbitrarily long and slowly, and a child is often used by interacting with intuitive interfaces, and by three years can give a head start to an adult. Naturally, gadgets rearrange in a certain way the functional systems of the child’s brain, like any cultural instrument.

When you give a child a spoon in his hand, then a spoon -This is a cultural subject with the methods of treatment “wired” into it. You can take it in a certain way, bring it to your mouth at a certain angle, and otherwise it will not work. Spoon lays out the logic of the movement of the hand. New technical devices are a thousand times more complicated, but they are the same spoons in which certain cultural practices are “sewn up”.

- 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?

- Complex issue. It is, rather, all the same to the gender and social psychologists who are engaged in this particular area. Nowadays, interest in gender psychology is growing in the country. We even here at the HSE open a new master's interdisciplinary program on gender studies, where colleagues are going to study both stereotypes about women and men and their social behavior. But I would say that, in general, our country still continues to stomp along the path of fixed gender roles. Traditional kindergarten history: boys - soldiers, girls - princesses. She does not go anywhere even in the current kindergartens.

- It's true. My son in kindergarten at the festival boys were bugs, and the girls - beautiful butterflies. In this case, the boys collected blue balls, and the girls - yellow.

- Yes, this border continues to societyconducted, dictated, including at the level of the country's leadership. This system of patriarchy - the system of the head of the family - does not go anywhere. In the world, I see, of course, the situation is different. At the same time, if you look at the youth of the capital, it doesn’t matter whether we take Moscow, St. Petersburg or some of the major cities, for example, Vladivostok, the situation there is likely to be similar to Europe or America. If we take a small provincial town, we will see the history characteristic of the Soviet Union, and perhaps even of the pre-revolutionary era. Our country is rather ambivalent in this respect.

- This duality, in fact, was still inThe Soviet Union - Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg, feminitives, female managers and techies. At the same time - and films a la "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears" and "Office Romance", where the idea was held that a woman can not be strong, and she needs a bad one, but a peasant. Therefore, what do you think this duality is connected with?

- This duality is connected, on the one hand, witha very strong tradition that the state continues to support, on the other hand, with globalization. In particular, the Internet just tore through so many borders that continued to exist, even when the first mass tourist trips abroad began, when they began to translate a lot of new fiction.

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 do you think, how long will the tradition of views change, and how can it be and should it be changed?

- I would say that very long, slowly andpainfully, simply because from above there is an attitude towards traditional values, spiritual bonds and, ultimately, patriarchy. It is necessary to change such principles. And, again, perhaps, the new generation, which has already arrived and which is just coming, sees the picture somehow differently. It can be seen from my belfry so that you - from your belfry - may already be seen somehow differently. This is a different optics, and we do not know how the current pupils of primary and secondary schools will see it, although they are more often brought up by the same teachers in line with the same traditional values. And the optics that we have been formed compels us to assume these or other obligations already, because, in fact, if this social role in this country is interpreted in this way and you have absorbed this interpretation, yes, you feel certain social expectations from all sides. And learn to behave in this way, and not to others. Relatively speaking, having given birth to a child, you cannot say: you guys, as you like, 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.

- See, I can't say it could besome serious conflicts or disassembly, rather, such a misunderstanding by representatives of different generations. In this case, take all the fiction of the XIX century - this is such a constant conflict between fathers and children. Wherever you go, at least in Turgenev, at least in Pushkin, at least in Tolstoy. It has always been and always will be. Another thing is that we need to talk about a greater rate of change due to the reduction of the gap between conditional age cohorts. But, in general, I do not see big differences. In the 19th century, the concept of the family was much stronger, so when a traditional conflict between the generation of parents and the generation of children arose within the family, it could be experienced more painfully. Now parents often do not understand the new words that denote the profession of their children. And children can engage in career growth for themselves, and the parent may not really understand what this area is like - just at the level of not owning terminology, such as pre-sale or front-end. In general, I am not inclined to see exactly the problem in this.

- According to numerous studies, the older a person is, the less flexible his brain is in perceiving new information in large quantities.

- If we talk about cognitive aging asas such, yes, indeed, after 27 years, our cognitive abilities are beginning to decline, but this does not mean that we cannot learn something. If you wish, you can learn something new even in a very old age, and even in very old people the brain is rebuilt under the influence of learning. Perhaps more slowly, perhaps at great expense, but there would be a desire. Another thing is, if a person is comfortable in the world in which he is used, then he simply may not want to. For the older generation this new networked world is a way out of the comfort zone. And the question is whether the person is ready to make the transition or not. I once admired the professors of Mechmatova who, at the beginning of the mass programming era, in the 90s, mastered programming languages ​​and emigrated, say, to the States. And there they occupied quite serious positions in the companies, simply because they had brains and skills, and then the work was successful. The man wanted and mastered, but could not want and not master.

- Is there a 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 on it. “Wow, dads brought the kids to the pool” or “Wow, dads walk with the kids on the playground.” It is still even perceived by ourselves as something not fully characteristic of our culture. As some kind of feat on the part of dads, unlike mom, on the part of which it is not a feat, it is usually - mom walks, but what a good fellow dad walks. And I still do not see that this is a complete withdrawal from the stereotype about the inequality of gender roles, let's say.

- What are you going to do next? How do you see your career if you are going back to 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.