Brain Research Shows Kids Get More Introspective Over Time

Filed under: Research Reveals: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Tweens, Research Reveals: Teens

child looking mirror picture

Kids are naturally egocentric. Credit: Getty Images

Are your kids totally self-centered?

Relax, they won't always be that way.

That's what scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center found while studying the five regions of the brain that make up what's called the default-mode network, or DMN. According to their research, young children and tweens are more egocentric than introspective based on how their brains function.

According to the website Psych Central, the study revealed that the DMN regions, which are key to how a person understands themselves introspectively and others, are not fully active in children younger than age 13. The researchers used MRIs to examine the brain, and found that the DMN regions don't work together in kids ages 6 to 9.

It isn't until they reach age 10 that the five regions that make up the DMN begin to function in tandem. Between the ages of 13 and 19, they become fully functional and coordinated. The DMN regions are also necessary to forming beliefs, intentions and desires through autobiographical memory.

"These results suggest that children develop introspection over time as their brains develop," first author and neuroscientist Stuart Washington tells Psych Central. "Before then, they are somewhat egocentric, which is not to mean that they are negatively self-centered, but they think that everyone views the world in the same way they do. They lack perspective in that way."

Washington adds that previous research suggests the DMN isn't well-coordinated in autistic people. This current study, spearheaded by Washington, tested 42 participants who ranged in age from 9 to 27. Participants were asked to perform a certain task, and then the scientists recorded the brain activity that took place after the patients completed that task and were asked to rest.

In the group of kids ages 6 to 9, the researchers found the same kind of brain activity seen in older autistic children.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.