In recent years, there has been more and more talk about the effect of computers, mobile devices, and video games on the development of children and young people. Programming is not exempt from controversy, as it is also reduced to the pejorative “sitting in front of a screen.” However, it turns out that programming, like games, can positively affect the development of the brain and the way of thinking in children and young people.
One of the most common stereotypes about programming is that it is a repetitive and tedious activity that has nothing to do with creative and imaginative work. Of course, there is no truth in this statement: mastering a specific programming language is only one piece of the puzzle. A good programmer must know the syntax of the language in which he is programming and develop the ability to think analytically and logically.
According to the latest studies, the impact of programming on the development of our brain is enormous. However, this does not mean that we suddenly become Sherlock Holmes by learning the program, and logic puzzles stop having secrets for us. No, it doesn’t work like that. Although the impact of programming on our way of thinking is very significant, it is not that spectacular.
Programming expands cognitive capacity.
Numerous studies confirm the positive impact of programming on brain development. As early as 1991, US researchers showed a strong link between learning programming and cognitive learning skills. Sixty-five students were invited to participate in the study: some learned programming and the rest had never studied programming. The results were surprising, as it was found that those learning to code performed up to 16% better than other students on tests of cognitive ability. Subsequent studies conducted in 1999 and 2009 confirmed that learning to code can accelerate knowledge acquisition by developing cognitive skills. As a result, we remember information much better,
Is the programmer’s brain different from the typical brain?
This question is more straightforward if we direct our gaze to the so-called mental models. They are nothing more than representations of real situations created by our minds; they are made from what we imagine or see at the moment.
Mental models play a fundamental role in acquiring knowledge, which can be seen in learning the first programming language.
As we learn, new mental models are created in our brains, impacting how we think and solve problems. Consequently, a mind accustomed to a particular model often has difficulty making new models during the learning process.
When it comes to programming, it’s impossible to focus solely on one language and one problem. Programming is a constantly changing system that forces us to think innovative and alternatively.
As a result, programmers are not only better analysts but also have much better memories, and more importantly, this is usually not the result of genetic predisposition but systematic intellectual training.
What does an MRI say? In 2014, a study was conducted on seventeen programmers using MRI. It was then discovered that the centers responsible for semantic memory, working memory, and linguistic communication were the most active.
Also, the brain parts responsible for counting and logical thinking did not show much activity. This study showed that we activate the same centers when we program as when we learn a new language.
In short, by learning to program, we develop logical and analytical thinking skills and, above all, exercise working memory and semantic memory. In this way, our brain is constantly exercising by reducing neurons. In addition, we get better memory and can absorb a large amount of information more quickly.
Studies clearly show that learning to code has several benefits related to our future profession and our health. Programming is one of the most demanding fields of mental work, which is worth spending time on.