Stress Test

Researchers observed two classes of UVA medical students, one of which was graded with a traditional system (A, B, C, D, F) while the other was pass/fail. The two groups performed equally well, but the pass/fail class exhibited fewer symptoms of stress. “Medical students are, for the most part, self-motivated,” says UVA biology professor Robert Bloodgood, head of the study. “However, they also experience a great deal of stress and anxiety. Part of that stress, we felt, was due to the traditional grading methodology.”

Head Games

Toddlers who are good at a task similiar to the head-shoulders-knees-toes game tend to do better in school. Youngsters were told to do the opposite of a set of oral commands (for example, the correct response for “touch your toes” would be to touch your head). The task challenges children to listen, pay attention and regulate their own behavior. Claire Ponitz and her colleagues found that kids who do the task well seem to have a head start in literacy, vocabulary and math skills.

They like me, they like me not

Adolescents who feel popular seem to have all the psychological advantages of teens who are rated as popular by their peers. A study by Kathleen B. McElhaney, Jill Antonishak and Joseph P. Allen compared teens’ perceptions of their own social acceptance with their actual popularity. Feeling like they didn’t fit in proved to have a negative impact on teens, but the study’s results also suggest that often adolescents create their own social niches, which allow them to be socially successful without being broadly popular.