One Size Does Not Fit All

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Science  03 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6034, pp. 1128
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6034.1128-b

Some children, particularly those with a more fearful temperament, are more sensitive than others to the influence of parents, teachers, and environment. Studying preschoolers, Kegel et al. attempt to link this with a particular genetic polymorphism. Children played a literacy-geared computer game that delivered instruction and assignments to all participants, but differed in whether it delivered feedback about the children's choices. A feature that distinguished the groups of children was whether they carried the long variant of the dopamine D4 receptor gene, which is associated with lower dopamine reception efficiency. Children who carried this polymorphism were more susceptible to the effects of feedback from the computer program. They outperformed the control group when feedback guided their learning, and they did worse than the control group when feedback was absent. In contrast, children with the short variant of the gene seemed to be unruffled by the presence or absence of feedback. For education, just as for shoes, a good fit to the individual produces the best result.

Mind Brain Educ. 5, 71 (2011).

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