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STEM Tuesday — Brain/Psychology — Author Interview

We are delighted to welcome Tanya Lloyd Kyi to the blog today.

Tanya Lloyd Ki

Tanya Kyi is the author of more than 30 books for children and young adults. She writes about science, pop-culture, and places where the two overlap. Tanya has worked in the past as a graphic designer, an editor, and a dishwasher. (She considers herself entirely qualified for that last one.) Her favourite color is blue, her favourite food is cheese, and her favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time.

Her book:

This is your brain on Stereotypes

Discusses the brain science behind stereotypes. It’s very intriguing!

Blurb: An essential overview of the science behind stereotypes: from why our brains form them to how recognizing them can help us be less biased.

From the time we’re babies, our brains constantly sort and label the world around us — a skill that’s crucial for our survival. But, as adolescents are all too aware, there’s a tremendous downside: when we do this to groups of people it can cause great harm. Here’s a comprehensive introduction to the science behind stereotypes that will help young people make sense of why we classify people, and how we can change our thinking. It covers the history of identifying stereotypes, secret biases in our brains, and how stereotypes affect our sense of self. Most importantly, it covers current research into how science can help us overcome our biases, offering hope for a future where stereotypes are less prevalent and the world is more fair for everyone.

 

Received a starred review from Kirkus as well as other praise:

A must-read primer for change.―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

… fascinating …―Booklist

A worthwhile purchase … that will help readers recognize, understand, and eradicate stereotypes.―School Library Journal

Alongside Drew Shannon’s colourful illustrations [Lloyd Kyi] encapsulates key sociological and scientific research on racism and stereotyping.―New York Times

 

Thanks for joining us today, Tanya! This is such an intriguing topic, how did you come up with it? 

One afternoon, I listened to a Hidden Brain podcast about implicit bias. That evening, my husband called from Edmonton, where he was giving the keynote speech at a conference. My husband is Asian Canadian and when he’d arrived at the conference venue, he’d been mistaken for the custodian. I thought… aha! That was implicit bias at work. I did some sleuthing to see if there was enough research about the topic to fill a children’s book, and there was so much fascinating material! I could have written three books on the subject.
 

Can you give us a short explanation of how science and stereotypes are related?

 

What do you see when you picture a senior citizen? What about a ballet dancer? Or an environmentalist? You probably picture an old grey-haired lady, maybe doing some knitting. You might imagine a girl in a tutu and a bearded guy in sandals. But those are generalizations. There are plenty of tennis-playing seniors, male ballet dancers, and suit-wearing environmentalists. Stereotypes live in the same place in our brain where we store implicit memory — things we know without necessarily remembering how we know them. You understand how to use scissors, you know the grass is green, and you believe ballet dancers wear tutus. Relying on our implicit memory for scissor use is fine, but when we allow our brains to supply us with snap-judgement images about people, we can be led astray by our own assumptions.
We don’t always realize we have biases (or maybe we hide them!), so scientists have to be tricky in order to study them. Sometimes they pretend to be studying something else, while actually watching what choices we make. Or they might ask us to make choices quickly, so we don’t have time to hide the stereotypes we hold. One of the most famous tests of bias is one developed by Harvard, and you can take it yourself, online. It’s called the Implicit Association Test.

 

Can you give us a sneak peek of one or two of the activities that you have in your book to help people understand their own ways of thinking?  

 

There’s so much we can do to combat the stereotypes in our own brains. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited to write this book. If kids notice gender bias in toys, they can email the toy companies. If they want to make their school a more accepting place, they can volunteer to create a display of diverse books in the library. But one of the most researched things in all of stereotype science is called the contact hypothesis. A psychologist named Gordon Allport came up with the idea in the mid 1900s, and studies have been done in hundreds of countries since then. The contact hypothesis says that if you hang out with people who are different than you, you will hold fewer stereotypes. So the very best way to combat stereotypes? Make all sorts of friends!
 

What do you want young readers to get out of your book? 

 

I’d love young readers to begin to recognize biases in the world around them, and to understand that they have the power to make change. You don’t have to get a university degree to combat stereotypes; you just have to pop by a GSA meeting at school, or redecorate your school computer lab in gender neutral themes, or pick up a book about characters who live in a different part of the world.
 

Do you have any tips for writers who want to break into nonfiction children’s books? 

 

Information books for children have changed dramatically in the last decade, so don’t rely on your memories of your own school library shelves. Head to a local bookstore and check out the ways writers, illustrators, and publishers are using new formats and forms to capture kids’ attention.
 

What are you working on now? 

 

I’ve just released a middle-grade novel called Emily Posts (published by Penguin Random House) and I have a picture book coming out called When You Meet a Dragon (illustrated by Udayana Lugo and published by Orca Books). While these aren’t information books, they were both inspired by research. Emily Posts is about a young influencer who encounters censorship while podcasting about the climate crisis, and When You Meet a Dragon is about the power of community to overcome existential, dragon-sized problems.

 

Thank you for having me, Jennifer! It’s an honor to be featured on your site.

 

You’re so welcome, Tanya. I loved learning more about how this book came to be, and I’m sure our readers did as well.

 

You can find out more about the book– and Tanya— HERE  –> https://www.tanyalloydkyi.com/
Jennifer Swanson author
Jennifer Swanson is an award-winning children’s author and podcaster. You can find her at her website https://jenniferswansonbooks.com/,
or her Solve It! for Kids podcast website www.solveitforkids.com   or on Pinterest, or X and IG @jenswanbooks.

STEM Tuesday — Brain/Psychology — Writing Tips & Resources

The STEM Tuesday Gods Smiled.

The STEM Tuesday gods must be smiling on me.

First, the monthly Writing Tips & Resources posting rotation bestowed upon me the good fortune of October’s “Spooky & Scary Science” and now January’s “Brain/Psychology” as my topics. How lucky is it that both topics land smack dab in the middle of my wheelhouse?

The second example is I’ve been borderline obsessed the past few years with studying and reading about brain science, especially how it relates to cognition and creativity. Brain/Psychology as my topic landed in fertile ground. 

Several of my recent posts have documented this journey. My brain became hooked on brain studies in 2021 when I read and posted about a fascinating book by neuroscientist-turned-English professor Angus Fletcher called Wonderworks. In late 2022, I posted a piece called Creative Braining inspired by a fascinating Scientific American collection, Secrets of the Mind. The collection covers some of the latest developments in brain science and how they relate to cognition, processing, and recall. 

 

The common thread of my brain journey has been studying how we interact with the world and constantly input/output information in such a way it gives each one of us a unique relationship to the environment. We call the expression of that unique relationship our personality. The magnet at the core of this is that, as creators, what is put into our brains gets processed differently in individual brains and results in unique output. This uniqueness of personality manifests in that often vague term “creative voice”. 

That brings us to this month’s short and sweet STEM Tuesday Writing Tips & Resources tips. The focus is on experiencing more and better inputs to get more and better outputs. Improving our creator voice by expanding our experiences.

  1. Discover – Get out in the world and look for new things. Nature, museums, libraries, people-watching, walking, etc. are all great avenues for discovery.   
  2. Adventure – Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Something new and possibly a little scary can lead to new brain-processing connections and result in new associations/ideas.
  3. Experience –  Jump into the discoveries and adventures to get the visceral feel of something. It’s one thing to read or watch a video about a rollercoaster.  Riding a rollercoaster, however, is on a whole other visceral level.

That’s it! Short and simple tips for maximizing your creator’s brain. Push information and experience into your brain and your brain will take care of the rest. The brain will take all those discoveries, all those adventures, and all those experiences, process the data, store it, and then form the neural connections to allow you to produce output unique to you.

Happy Braining!

Nikolakhs, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal-opportunity sports enthusiast, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training-related topics at  www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at  www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101, are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the X under the guise of @coachhays64 and on Instagram at @mikehays64.

 


The O.O.L.F Files

This month’s version of the O.O.L.F.(Out of Left Field) Files looks under the hood at the brain and psychology. 

The Creative Brain

Brain Central

Prehistoric Creative Braining for Survival – We’ve been creative braining since the dawn of man.

Psychology and Neuroscience

 


 

STEM Tuesday — Brain/Psychology — In the Classroom

The books I read for this month covered an interesting mix of brain science and psychology.

 

Your Amazing Brain: The Epic Illustrated Guide
by Jessica Sinarski, illustrated by Luiz Fernando Da Silva

This book gives a great explanation of how the brain works. It covers many of the different functions the brain is involved in.

 

Cutting-Edge Brain Science
by Buffy Silverman

To take a brief look at how scientists study brains and to get a glimpse of the future of brain science, read this book.

 

Detecting Brain Disorders
by Rachel Kehoe

When something goes wrong with the brain, there are many ways doctors can figure out what’s happened. This book looks at these different tools.

 

This is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science is Tackling Unconscious Bias
By Tanya Lloyd Kyi; Illustrated by Drew Shannon

This is a book that takes a closer look at psychology. It specifically looks at how people develop and react to stereotypes and how they may be able to counteract them.

 

There is so much that can be done with this topic (or rather collection of topics). Most of the books have activities to try and/or resources to explore. Here are a few additional ideas.

Make a Brain Hat

If you’re looking for a great way to explore which parts of the brain do what, here’s the activity for you! Students can color and cut out the brain hemisphere hat. It shows what functions happen where in the brain. Since they can wear the result, they can get a really great idea of how their brain works. Sound awesome?! Here’s the link: https://homeschoolgiveaways.com/free-printable-brain-hemisphere-hat

Explore Your Bias

Take one or more areas of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) covered in This Is Your Brain on Stereotypes. Here is the link: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit There are tests for many different possible biases. What did you think of your results?

Conduct an Experiment

There are lots of experiments that can explore brain science and psychology. They can be a lot of fun, too.

Science Buddies guides students through science experiments. They have an entire collection of brain science/psychology experiments: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/science-projects/experiment-in-psychology/middle-school

Other ideas for experiments can be found at the sites below. For a guide on how to conduct a psychology experiment, check out this page: https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-conduct-a-psychology-experiment-2795792

Experiment Ideas

More Activities

Other web sites have collections of activities that explore brain science. Here are a few.


Janet Slingerland is the author of over 20 books for young readers. You can find her online at http://janetsbooks.com. She is also now on Bluesky: https://bsky.app/profile/janetslingerland.bsky.social.