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?

FEATURED STUDY:

What do children think about unfamiliar songs? In collaboration with The Music Lab at Harvard University, we’ve developed an online experiment looking at what children think different songs might be used for. In this study, children can play a game where they listen to songs recorded in small-scale societies from all around the world. After hearing each song, they can choose what they think the song was used for in its original setting! Previous research has demonstrated that adults are quite good at guessing what an unfamiliar song was originally used for—we’re excited to learn what children think! If you and your child would like to play the game, you are welcome to try it out at: kids.themusiclab.org

CURRENT STUDIES:

Infants’ understanding of preferences: 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 spoon, crayon, and a block. Sometimes, the objects the actor chooses will be replaced by other objects that they haven’t seen before.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 these new situations!

Understanding others’ thoughts and actions: In this study, we are interested in how 2-year-olds think about other people’s thoughts and actions. Your toddler 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 and toddlers 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.

What do children know about knowledge?: We want to understand how 4-year-old children determine what someone else knows, especially when they have never met that person before. Children will be told a story about two aliens and will be told different things about them. They will then be asked to guess which aliens 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.