‘Transcendent’ Thinking May Grow Teens’ Brains Over Time

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by ScienceDaily.

Scientists at the USC Rossier School of Education’s Center for Affective Neuroscience, Development, Learning and Education (CANDLE), have shown for the first time that a type of thinking, that has been described for over a century as a developmental milestone of adolescence, may grow teenagers’ brains over time. This kind of thinking, which the study’s authors call “transcendent,” moves beyond reacting to the concrete specifics of social situations to also consider the broader ethical, systems-level and personal implications at play. Engaging in this type of thinking involves analyzing situations for their deeper meaning, historical contexts, civic significance, and/or underlying ideas.

The published study “Diverse adolescents’ transcendent thinking predicts young adult psychosocial outcomes via brain network development” is published in Scientific Reports.

In previous studies, the authors had shown that when teens and adults think about issues and situations in a transcendent way, many brain systems coordinate their activity, among them two major networks important for psychological functioning: the executive control network and the default mode network.

The researchers privately interviewed 65, 14-18-year-old high school students about true stories of other teens from around the world and asked the students to explain how each story made them feel.

The students then underwent fMRI brain scans that day and again two years later.

The researchers followed up with the participants twice more over the next three years, as they moved into their early twenties.

What the researchers found is that all teens in the experiment talked at least some about the bigger picture — what lessons they took from a particularly poignant story, or how a story may have changed their perspective on something in their own life or the lives and futures of others.

However, they found that while all of the participating teens could think transcendently, some did it far more than others.

And that was what made the difference. The more a teen grappled with the bigger picture and tried to learn from the stories, the more that teen increased the coordination between brain networks over the next two years, regardless of their IQ or their socioeconomic status.

The findings reveal a novel predictor of brain development — transcendent thinking. The researchers believe transcendent thinking may grow the brain because it requires coordinating brain networks involved in effortful, focused thinking, like the executive control network, with those involved in internal reflection and free-form thinking, like the default mode network.

Source: ScienceDaily

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on Crosswalk.com and Religiontoday.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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