Episode 18 – Firestarter: not just a song by The Prodigy

How amazing is it to sit around a campfire? Watching those beautiful, flickering flames; listening to the gorgeous crackle of firewood. It’s mesmerising. Humans are innately fascinated by fire, but our relationship with fire is complex. Sometimes, fire fascination turns into something more dangerous. Sometimes, humans intentionally set fires. And guess what? It seems that some birds do this too! In episode 18 of Sister Doctor Squared, Aleena and Janine explore some research around firestarting behaviour. For the inner square segment, Janine continues in the theme of intelligent birds, while Aleena regales us around her recent experience of context-specific memory!

Mastering of this episode, plus intro and outro music, by the ever-talented Dr Adrian Diery.

What are some developmental risk factors for fire setting in young children?

According to the caregivers, the most frequent reason for setting fires was curiosity. Motivations like boredom, anger, and attention seeking were far less common.

Kids who had an accomplice were more likely to set more fires than kids who didn’t have an accomplice, and kids who were exposed to images and/or videos of fires being set were more likely to have set more fires. What effect might media be having on kids’ curiosity about fire? It’s hard to say with an observational study like this – but these are really interesting results.

Also, kids who were disciplined or punished for their firesetting behaviour were more likely to start more fires. Again, since this is an observational study, we can’t say there is any causation here. It may just be that some children continue to start fires despite being disciplined, because their curiosity about fire is so intense.

The researchers also looked at mental health, home situations, behavioural problems, and more. Listen in for the full summary!

“Fight fire fascination” – a program in our home state

Intentional fire-spreading behaviour in raptors. Yes, for real!

What brought out our inner square?

*Not turned on (thankfully this was not required 😊)

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

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