Current Studies

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Our research focuses on how children learn about other people, begin to understand communication and become a part of the social world. Babies love to watch people from the time they are born – what do they understand about what they’re seeing?

WE ARE INTERESTED IN QUESTIONS LIKE:
• What do babies understand about the role of language in communication?
• How do children learn that others can have different thoughts and feelings than they do?
• How do children start to evaluate what they and others know and don’t know?
• How do babies and children develop an understanding of how to help and share?

CURRENT STUDIES:

Pre-verbal infants’ understanding of speech: In this study, we are interested in whether 6-month-old babies understand that speech is used to communicate. Your baby will sit on your lap and watch a short play on a puppet stage in which two actors will interact with different objects using fun sounds. We measure babies’ looking time to see what they expect the actors to do.

Infants’ understanding of goals: In this study, we are interested in how 10- to 12-month-olds think about the motivations and choices of other people. Your baby will sit on your lap and watch an actor play with a cup, teapot, spoon, and bowl. Sometimes, the objects will be used together, for example the actor might use the spoon and bowl together to eat, and sometimes the objects will be by themselves. We will measure how long your baby looks to each part of the play, and from that we will be able to see what object they think the actor should be choosing in different situations!

Understanding others’ thoughts and actions: In this study, we are interested in how 15-month-old babies think about other people’s thoughts and actions. Your baby will sit in your lap in front of a tv screen and watch a short 5-minute movie where an actor is searching for a toy in some colourful boxes. Babies usually look for a longer time when they see something that is surprising or unexpected, so we measure how long your child looks at each part of the movie to see where they expect the actor to search.

Understanding the role of communication in social interactions: In this study, we are interested in how 19-month-old babies think about the role of perspective taking in communication. Your baby sits on your lap in front of a puppet stage and watches a short 5-minute play where two actors interact with two toys. We measure how long babies look at each part of the play to see what they expect the actors to do.

Infants’ understanding of low and high probability situations: In this study, we are interested in finding out what 19-to-21-month-olds expect people to do in low and high probability situations. An example of a low probability situation would be guessing the correct door when there are 10 identical doors to choose from and an example of a high probability situation would be guessing between two identical doors. To test this, we have your baby sit on your lap in front of a puppet stage where they watch two actors interact with a fun toy and several boxes. We then look at how long your baby looks at different parts of the play to see which events they find surprising.

What do toddlers think is important when helping?: This study investigates how 2-year-olds help others, and what they consider when deciding how to help. We teach toddlers how to play with a fun toy, and we want to know whether the way that they help others to use it depends on what that person knows about, or what that person’s goal is.

What do children know about knowledge?: We want to understand how 3- to 6-year-old children determine what someone else knows, especially when they have never met that person before. Children will be shown photos of pairs of kids and will be told different things about them. They will then be asked to guess which kids know which things!

“I want to walk like you, talk like you.. think like you?:” Do children believe animals can feel emotion, make moral judgments, and remember their past? Do children’s beliefs vary based on whether the animal is a mammal, an insect, or a reptile? This study in collaboration with Wellington Zoo aims to investigate how 3- to 8-year-old children think about the minds of animals.

Kid communicators: As adults, we can change how we communicate with others depending on what they know about. Just consider how you would talk about Santa Claus to a 3-year-old versus your best friend! We want to know how children start to develop the ability to consider what someone else knows about and use that to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their communication.