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Causality Learning    

Tobii eye-tracking with 8- to 14-month-olds

This study is focused on determining what babies know and can learn about the causes of events in the world. Babies sit on their parents’ laps and watch a series of short animations. During each animation, an object appears on the screen. Babies control where the object moves on the screen using only their visual fixations, and have a number of different final locations they may choose from. Fun videos appear for some of these spatial locations. We will collect data on which spatial locations your child favors during this visual task.

Current studies

Language & Conceptual Development

Touchscreen testing with 3- to 5-year-olds

In this study, we want to explore how children’s language learning and conceptual development are related. We have children play simple games on a touchscreen computer that require them to make decisions about different objects as they undergo different transformations. Children’s responses inform us about what they have learned about different words and concepts presented throughout the experiment.

Speech Sound Learning

Tobii eye-tracking with 8- to 10-month-olds

This study investigates what features of speech infants consider when learning the speech sounds of their language. Infants watch a movie featuring a ball that moves around the screen, accompanied by different sounds. We use eye-tracking to determine where they look on the screen during the movie. We use this information to infer how infants have categorized the different sounds that they heard.

Visual Search

Tobii eye-tracking with 7- to 8-month-olds

In this study, we hope to discover how babies visually find things that they want in the world. We use eye-tracking to measure your baby’s visual fixations while he or she searches for everyday objects among other objects in a complex scene. Your baby’s eye movements tell us about different attentional strategies they employ during their search.

Sensory Processing

NIRS brain-imaging with 5- to 7-month-olds

This study explores how babies process sensory information, especially vision and audition.  In order to see what areas of the brain are involved in this type of processing, each baby wears a soft hat with sensors that shine a harmless, low-intensity light onto his or her head in order to measure cortical activation (NIRS brain-imaging).  This enables us to measure brain activity while your baby watches a short video of familiar words.

Word Learning

Positive Science eye-tracking with 1- to 2-year-olds

Though infants could theoretically learn words by tracking all of the co-occurrence statistics of present objects and spoken words, constraints on attention and memory make this solution intractable. Thus, infants limit the number of raw statistics they track for language learning is by considering a speakers’ communicative intentions. Cues to speaker intention include social cues, such as joint visual attention, pointing, and eye gaze. We examine this topic by using a set of head-mounted eye-trackers worn by both a child and their caretaker as they play with toys in the lab. We record their visual fixations and touches to different objects in order to learn which cues are most important to children in the process of word learning.

Conceptual Development

Video eye-tracking and computational modeling with 9- to 10-month-olds

This study helps us understand how children learn and combine independent facts in order to form higher level concepts.  In this study, babies watch a series of short animations featuring many different moving objects. We measure babies’ attention to various objects in order to observe changes over time in their conceptual system.

Scene Perception

Video eye-tracking with 9- to 10-month-olds

Our current visual learning study explores how infants process complex visual scenes.  In this study, we familiarize infants to two displays of different colored shapes.  We then test what infants learned by evaluating their interest in two different types of displays: ones identical to those they saw during familiarization, and ones containing the same objects in new spacial arrangements. We study their reaction to these two types of displays in order to determine what infants learned about the spacial arrangement of the objects during familiarization.


Touchscreen and researcher-based behavioral testing with 3- to 6-year-olds

When children draw on walls, reject daily baths, or leave the house wearing no pants and a tutu, caretakers may reasonably doubt their capacity for rational decision-making. However, recent evidence suggests that even very young children possess sophisticated mechanisms of inference in a wide range of domains. In this series of experiments, we test the limitations of these mechanisms and study how they affect children’s decision-making. We use a combination of researcher-based behavioral testing and interactive touchscreen studies.

Learning Cue Combination

Touchscreen tablet testing with 5- to 7-year-olds

Children are confronted with many different possible sources of information in the world from which to learn, in many different sensory modalities (e.g., auditory, visual, haptic). We are interested in how children combine the information they receive from these different learning sources. We have children play interactive games on small, personal touchscreen tablets. We test them over the course of two days. By analyzing their responses, we can determine which of several available cues they utilized most, and how these decisions impacted their learning.

The Baby Lab conducts research studies in many different research areas with with children from 4-months to 7-years-old. Studies are typically overseen by one or two Baby Lab researchers. The particular studies we are running changes from week to week, and sometimes even day to day, so it is generally not possible to request a particular study. However, below are some studies we have recently run to give you a sense of what Baby Lab research is like. If you are interested in participating in studies like the ones below, you can read more about the volunteer process or sign-up online.

Photos: J. Adam Fenster