Brits: Adolescence lasts till 25

Adolescence lasts till the age of 25, British psychologists have decided.

Parents insulate their children from “real-life experience,” says Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent. “So you have this kind of cultural shift which basically means that adolescence extends into your late twenties and that can hamper you in all kinds of ways, and I think what psychology does is it inadvertently reinforces that kind of passivity and powerlessness and immaturity and normalises that.”

Where the money is — and isn’t

NPR charts The Most (And Least) Lucrative College Majors.

Erin Ford graduated from the University of Texas two years ago with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering. Recruiters came to campus to woo her. She got a paid summer internship, which turned into a full-time job after she graduated. Now, at age 24, she makes $110,000 a year.

Michael Gardner just graduated from City College in New York with a degree in psychology. He applied for more than 100 jobs, had trouble getting interviews and worked at Home Depot to make ends meet. “Every single day while I was at work, I’m thinking, ‘I just hope I really don’t get stuck.’ ” Gardner just got a job earning $36,000 a year as a case worker — and he feels lucky to have it.

There are no surprises in the high-earnings chart. On the low side, a health/medical prep degree doesn’t pay well because it requires graduate work.

Income by major

Psych prof cleared in ‘gay pride’ assignment

A psychology professor’s assignment — wear a gay pride ribbon and write about the experience — didn’t infringe on students’ rights, concluded an investigation at Columbia State Community College in Tennessee. Students who objected because of their religious beliefs were allowed to do an alternative assignment.

China cuts majors with jobless grads

China’s Ministry of Education plans to phase out majors producing unemployable graduates. If less than 60 percent of graduates are employed after two years, the major will be cut back or eliminated.

China has increased the number of university graduates by nearly 150 percent since 2000.  But some lack the skills needed by the manufacturing-based economy, notes the Wall Street Journal.

Many university professors in China are unhappy with the Ministry of Education’s move, as it will likely shrink the talent pool needed for various subjects, such as biology, that are critical to the country’s aim of becoming a leader in science and technology but do not currently have a strong market demand, a report in the state-run China Daily report said.

An op-ed in the Beijing News said the policy will encourage universities to fudge employment statistics for graduates.

Official data already shows that the country’s educated jobless, referred to as the “ant tribe,” appear to be decreasing. In 2010, 72% of recent graduates found work, up from 68% in 2009, according to the Ministry of Education.

. . . some universities have already started taking steps to decrease the size of programs that don’t result in paid positions. Enrollment in a Russian program at China’s Shenyang Normal University was cut to 25 students this year from 50 in previous years, according to a report in the China Daily.

If the U.S. government decided to emulate China, what would go? The Journal’s chart of unemployment rates for college graduates lists clinical psychology, fine arts, U.S. history and library science as the majors least likely to lead to employment, but the jobless rates are low by Chinese standards.

It pays to wait for the second marshmallow

If you promise a second marshmallow to preschoolers who wait before eating the first, about 30 percent will wait 15 minutes, according to an experiment conducted in the ’60s. The rest can’t control their impulses long enough to get the second marshmallow.  The ability to delay gratification predicts success in high school and later life, reports the New Yorker.

Once (Stanford Psychology Professor Walter) Mischel began analyzing the results, he noticed that low delayers, the children who rang the bell quickly, seemed more likely to have behavioral problems, both in school and at home. They got lower S.A.T. scores. They struggled in stressful situations, often had trouble paying attention, and found it difficult to maintain friendships. The child who could wait fifteen minutes had an S.A.T. score that was, on average, two hundred and ten points higher than that of the kid who could wait only thirty seconds.

Researchers are following up with early and late marshmallow eaters, who are now in their 40s. Some will take MRIs to see if there are differences in the brain.

Researchers also are planning to study whether schoolchildren can be taught self-control skills that will persist when the marshmallows are all gone and children are trying to decide between homework and TV.

The lead researcher, Angela Lee Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, was a high-school math teacher frustrated by students with no self-control.  As a psychologist, she “found that the ability to delay gratification— eighth graders were given a choice between a dollar right away or two dollars the following week — was a far better predictor of academic performance than I.Q.”

David Levin, the co-founder of KIPP charter schools, asked Mischel and Duckworth to study KIPP’s program to teach self-control.

Self-control is one of the fundamental “character strengths” emphasized by KIPP — the KIPP academy in Philadelphia, for instance, gives its students a shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Don’t Eat the Marshmallow.”

Duckworth will analyze self-control mastery at KIPP schools, as well as at a private school, a school for gifted children and Mastery Charter Schools, in Philadelphia.

In the short run, students taught mental tricks can lengthen their delay time. But it takes practice to perfect self-discipline. “This is where your parents are important,” Mischel says.

According to Mischel, even the most mundane routines of childhood — such as not snacking before dinner, or saving up your allowance, or holding out until Christmas morning — are really sly exercises in cognitive training: we’re teaching ourselves how to think so that we can outsmart our desires.

Here’s a gadget — the Study Ball — that forces students to stick to their books.

Psych students do better online

Students who took Psychology 101 online outperformed those who attended lectures at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Professor Diane Reddy has replaced the traditional lecture format with an online version of Psych 101. Students learn at their own pace but also have to obtain mastery, demonstrated by passing a quiz on each unit, before they can move on to the next.

Along the way, students get help from teaching assistants who monitor their online activity, identifying weak spots and providing advice – even if the students don’t seek it.

Over two years, online students tested 12 percent higher and earned more A’s and B’s than those who took the in-person class, even though online students started with lower grades averages. Low-income, minority and low-performing students did especially well with the online course.