The Differential Relationship of Extracurricular Activities and Screen Time with Adolescents' Fluid and Crystallized Cognition

AbstractAdolescents are going through a period of rapid growth in cognitive resources, both in crystallized, or knowledge-based, cognition and fluid cognition, or the ability to think and reason flexibly. Past literature reveals an ongoing debate as to whether, or in what way, different activities during childhood relate to these abilities. The current study leveraged the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development baseline dataset to explore the interplay between nine- and ten-year-olds’ extracurricular activities, screen time, and the different components of cognition. Results indicate that adolescents’ activities explain more variance in crystallized than fluid cognition. Further, participation in artistic activities is associated with increased fluid and crystallized cognition, though sports is positively associated with fluid but negatively associated with crystallized cognition. Different types of screen time, though notably not video game playing, may be negatively associated with cognition. Screen time explains more variance in fluid cognition than extracurricular activities do, whereas the opposite is true of crystallized cognition. This correlational study suggests potential avenues for further work to disentangle the causal links underlying the relationships between experiences and cognition. Do such activities change adolescents’ cognitive skill, or do children self-select to participate in certain types of activities that complement their existing skills?

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