After interning at the Clinton Early Learning Center this past year, Noam Barnhard ’18 knew he wanted to pursue a summer opportunity involving childhood behavioral science, particularly with at-risk children. “I have always been interested in studying how people think,” he said.
This summer, Barnhard is collaborating with a behavioral economics team at NYU led by Research Professor Lisa A. Gennetian to identify cognitive biases most impactful to parenting and to parent engagement in early learning interventions. In 2015, Dr. Gennetian launched beELL, an initiative which employs behavioral economic insights to build positive parenting habits, while acknowledging the crucial importance of Early interactions involving Language and Literacy activities.
Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.
High School: Riverdale Country School
At NYU, Barnhard works to search and expand on literature for each of the biases recognized by the team, drawing from social psychology, child development, and behavioral economics texts. From this information, the team is able to conduct small experiments to build evidence supporting or refuting the influence of one or more of the biases.
In addition to research, Barnhard also curates and manages the @beEllorg Twitter account, which includes scoping professional organizations with similar substantive and/or program and policy links, engaging through social media, and constructing an archive of material to tweet.
Using behavioral economics, Dr. Gennetian and the beELL team have devised strategies to increase parent engagement with their children and parent participation with early education programs. “This type of early intervention is crucial in stimulating children’s brains during the period when they are most impressionable,” Barnhard said. Through this work, Dr. Gennetian is targeting education inequality head-on, interceding on a domestic level to impact change.
After ample data is collected, the beELL team plans to stage an intervention with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) in an effort to change our understanding of parenthood on a governmental level. “It sounds cliche to say, but central to the work beELL does is the belief that children are our future. The work I am doing this summer at NYU hopefully serves to make that future a little brighter,” said Barnhard.