A series of studies has found that, in the real world, children are often taught about the present more accurately.
A key finding in the studies is that children are taught the past in different ways than in the past when they were learning about the future.
These differences can be subtle, but they can also be profound, the authors of the research write in a new paper.
For example, children’s understanding of the future has been influenced by how their teachers were taught the story of the world’s creation, and the origins of life.
The authors also found that children have learned about the world differently when learning about historical events, and that they were more likely to think about them in terms of history.
The research was led by Professor Martin D. Bierut from the University of Bristol, and was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
The team also investigated how these differences could affect the way children learn about social and political issues.
In particular, the researchers used a social learning technique called the “past-future” approach, in which they asked children to imagine the future and to then ask them questions about that future, such as: What would you like to know about the creation of the earth and the universe?
What is the meaning of life?
How do you feel about the relationship between the two?
And so on.
The children were asked to rate the importance of each of these questions on a scale of one to 10.
These were then compared with a “future-focused” scale, in that the researchers asked them to answer as many questions as possible about the “future” and then asked the children to rate them on a similar scale, using questions about how people would react to each future.
When the researchers compared the answers of the children who were given the future-focused questions to those who were asked the questions about the current, they found that they had a better grasp of how people were feeling about the answers to the questions.
Children’s memories of the past were also better recalled, the study found.
Children were also more likely than adults to recognise the meaning behind events in the present, which could also affect how they remember events in their lives.
“What we saw is that the kids, when they are taught about history in school, are more likely, and we can see that from a statistical perspective, to recognise events in history more accurately than when they’re learning about history from a teacher,” says Professor Bieruts team member Dr Lisa Gebhard.
The findings were published in Social Cognitive Neuroscience.
“Our findings show that when we teach children about the history of the universe, they are more inclined to recognise and remember events of the present in terms that are more like what they’re experiencing today.”
The researchers also found differences in how children were taught about political issues when the children were young.
“Children were more interested in what was happening in the world, in their world, when their teacher was in the classroom,” says Dr Gebhart.
The results showed that the children’s memory of political events was not necessarily influenced by the teacher’s political ideology, but could also be influenced by social context.
The researchers say that these findings may be applicable to teaching young children, because children have a similar tendency to remember events that occur in their environment.
“If you’re teaching children in the home, it may be that you need to teach them in a more neutral way, where they’re not as involved in the politics of the home,” Dr Gibhard says.
The study is published in Science.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.