Making Minds

Bookshops are wonderful places—and not all the good stuff is in books. A few months ago, I spotted a man standing in the philosophy section of a local bookshop with his daughter, aged three or four. Dad was nose-deep in a tome, and his daughter was taking care of herself. But rather than wreaking havoc with the genres or scribbling on a flyleaf, she was doing exactly as her father was: with the same furrowed brow, bowed posture and chin-stroking fingers, this small child was gazing intently at a book of mathematical logic.

Children are masters of imitation. Copying parents and other adults is how they learn about their social world—about the facial expressions and body movements that allow them to communicate, gain approval and avoid rejection. Imitation has such a powerful influence on development, for good and ill, that child-protection agencies across the world run campaigns reminding parents to be role models. If you don’t want your kids to scream at other children, don’t scream at them.

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