my micreconomics prof, emily oster, is apparently the “baby genius” referred to in gladwell’s the tipping point.
from the slate:
Consider now a different piece of groundbreaking research in developmental psychology.
In the early 1980s, a group of psychologists and linguists banded together to write Narratives From the Crib, a study of how children acquire linguistic skills. Narratives was built around the speech patterns of one child, a 2-year-old girl. Her parents had noticed that she often talked to herself in the crib after they said good night and left her room. They were curious to know what she was saying, so they began to record her chatter. They turned on the tape recorder while they were tucking her in and then left it running. Eventually they gave the tapes to a psychologist friend, who shared it with her colleagues. The big surprise to these experts was that the girl’s speech was far more sophisticated when she was alone than when she was speaking with her parents. This finding, as Malcolm Gladwell would later write in The Tipping Point, “was critical in changing the views of many child experts.”
The 2-year-old girl in question was referred to as Baby Emily. Her full name? Emily Oster. In retrospect, it would appear that Narratives From the Crib suffers what researchers call an “n of 1” problem, with “n” representing the size of the sample set—a problem that is gravely exacerbated when the one subject turns out to be … well, a good bit brighter than average. Studying how children learn to talk by observing Baby Emily may be a bit like studying how children learn to play golf by studying Tiger Woods. Now that she’s an economist, Emily Oster has at least assured herself that she will never contribute to another “n of 1” problem. The challenge in her field—and so far she has met it well—is quite the opposite: to take a mass of disparate numbers and somehow wring from it one thing that is true.
pfff i was doing regressions at age 6…or i was eating elmer’s paste out of the jar. you be the judge. but more interestingly,
she’s tied with bowie! that genius ranking, however unscientific, is seriously incredible. my new life goal (replacing previous goal of “nothing”) is to tie with bowie on some list, any list, clearly not that list.