All aboard the baby brain

The March edition of The Psychologist has just appeared online and has two freely available articles: one article investigates whether women really suffer a reduction in mental sharpness during pregnancy, and another interviews baby psychologist Alison Gopnik about her work.

This idea that pregnancy causes a slight reduction in mental sharpness, sometimes known as ‘baby brain’ or ‘pregnesia’, is widespread but the results from scientific studies are mixed, and at best show only a negligible effect:

We’ve seen that whilst many women report experiencing cognitive difficulties during pregnancy, objective evidence for a link between pregnancy and cognitive decline has been inconsistent. This begs the question: does the memory deficit, if it exists, matter? Is there sufficient cause for women to worry about it? On the other hand, if there is no deficit, should we be doing more to combat what amounts to a pervasive sexist myth?

Crawley says that even if there is a real deficit, it’s nothing to worry about. ‘In a previous study of mine, before I gave women the standard questionnaire comparing their cognition now to before they were pregnant, I asked them to tell me about the kinds of changes they’d noticed about themselves since they’d become pregnant. Out of 198 women, only three spontaneously mentioned cognitive changes, so I don’t think they’re very salient.’

The interview with Alison Gopnik, is, as always, thoroughly engaging and largely riffs on themes from her new book The Philosophical Baby.

Link to Psychologist article ‘The Maternal Brain’.
Link to interview with Alison Gopnik.

Full disclosure: I’m an unpaid associate editor and occasional columnist for The Psychologist and I worked as a baby early in my career.

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