Pre-thinking:

When do babies begin to learn about their world? One month? Two months? When they get to school? Actually none of those choices is correct. Mounting evidence says that learning begins during the pre natal period, that is, before birth. As you listen to Annie Paul, think about whether there are alternative explanations for the research that she cites.

Why you should listen:

To what extent do the conditions we encounter before birth influence our individual characteristics? It‘s the question at the center of fetal origins, a relatively new field of research that measures how the effects of influences outside the womb during pregnancy can shape the physical, mental and even emotional well-being of the developing baby for the rest of its life.

Science writer Annie Murphy Paul calls it a gray zone between nature and nurture in her book Origins, a history and study of this emerging field structured around a personal narrative — Paul was pregnant with her second child at the time. What she finds suggests a far more dynamic nature between mother and fetus than typically acknowledged, and opens up the possibility that the time before birth is as crucial to human development as early childhood.

Who is she:

According to publisher’s bio, she was “born in Philadelphia, she graduated from Yale University and from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A former senior editor at Psychology Today magazine, she was awarded the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, Slate, Discover, Health, O: The Oprah Magazine, and many other publications. She is the author of Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives and The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves. Annie Murphy Paul is a magazine journalist and book author who writes about the biological and social sciences.

Born in Philadelphia, she graduated from Yale University and from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A former senior editor at Psychology Today magazine, she was awarded the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, Slate, Discover, Health, O: The Oprah Magazine, and many other publications. She is the author of Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives and The Cult of Personality: How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves”.

Questions:

  1. What evidence does Paul presents to support the claim that learning begins before birth?
  1. What does the term fetal origins mean?
  1. Rousseau called the newborn a blank slate (tabula rosa) – does current science support this theory?
  1. Discuss the research on story recognition, language, and food preferences.
  1. Do some research on the Mozart effect. Is there research evidence to support some of the claims that have been made (by people other than Paul) about the effect on prenatal development?
  1. Discuss the effect of prenatal trauma (“Hunger Winter” and 9/11) on postnatal development.

What we learn before we’re born with Annie Murphy Paul

1.46K
Views

3 Comments

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>