children scientists

On-going Research Projects

Many of our tasks ask children to learn new words -- in games, on the computer, or by viewing slides. We do this to understand how learning works and how it can be made easier. We are also interested in real world, everyday learning in naturalistic settings.

In the past, we (and lots of other researchers) followed young children around with cameras and clipboards, trying to understand their every day learning experiences. But these techniques just allow us to see the child in the world, they don't show us the child's world in the sense of what the child sees. In very exciting new research, we are putting lightweight head-cameras on children, a first attempt to see the world as they do.

Below is a list of our current studies and the ages that researchers are seeking for participation. We hope you find a study that excites you and sends you eagerly to filling out our on-line participation form.

Early Visual Environments of Infants and Toddlers

infant wearing looxcie attached to captoddler on trike wearing looxcie attached to capResearcher: Swapnaa Jayaraman, Assistant Scientist (collaborating with Caitlin Fausey, University of Oregon)

Ages needed: 0 - 24 months

Visits: parent's choice of home visit and/or lab visit (two times in total)

Study description: We want to understand what is in the visual environments of infants and toddlers, and whether they change across the first two years of life. We give parents a soft cap - with a light-weight camera sewn in - to place on their infant's head. Parents are asked to turn the camera on whenever the infant is awake to record the natural scenes in their infant's everyday lives. Statistical regularities in visual environments are deeply connected to the visual system. Characterizing and quantifying the early visual environments of infants and toddlers may help us understand how the visual system gets built.

Attention and Word Learning

child and parent pointing at touch screen on computerResearcher: Catarina Vales, Graduate Student

Ages needed: 32 - 42 months

Visits: one-time visit

Study description: In these studies we are interested in how words may change the way infants and children attend to objects, and how that can be related to the processes by which they learn new words. In some studies we use a touchscreen and ask the child to search for a particular object and touch it. In other studies we present some pictures in a big screen and record where the infant is looking at each moment. We use different tasks across several age ranges, so we can understand the developmental changes that occur.

Development of Attention in Children

child pointing at touch screen on computerchild viewing cardsResearchers: Catarina Vales, Graduate Student (collaborating with Viridiana Benitez, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison)

Ages needed: 36 - 52 months

Visits: one-time visit

Study description: During the first five years of life, children become better able to focus and to ignore irrelevant information. In this set of studies we are trying to understand how these changes occur. In one study, we ask children to look for a particular object while ignoring irrelevant distractors. In another study, children sort cards by different rules. These studies will help us understand how children learn to focus and what kinds of things help children switch tasks.

Comparison and Learning

child pointing at Tobii screenResearchers: Paulo Carvalho, Graduate Student, Catarina Vales, Graduate Student

Ages needed: 2 - 4 years

Visits: one-time visit

Study description: One way children learn to discriminate and group objects together is by comparing them. In these studies we are interested in how children compare objects and what happens while they are doing it. Do they look for similarities or differences? Does naming the objects change what information children look for when comparing objects? To study these questions we present children with images of objects on a TV screen in a matching game. An eyetracker positioned below the screen tells us where the child is looking at each moment.

Object Recognition

child pointing to object choice in storybookResearcher: Char Wozniak, Project Researcher

Ages needed: 14 - 15 months

Visits: one-time visit

Study description: How do children recognize objects? Is it by their overall shape? Features? In our current study, we are examining how well children identify and recognize realistic images of everyday objects in picture books and on screen via powerpoint. Recognizing how children recognize objects gives us key information about how children acquire language.

Parent and Child Joint Play

child and parent wearing head cameras and playing with toysResearcher: Catalina Suarez Rivera, Graduate Student

Ages needed: 18 - 26 months

Visits: one-time visit

Study description: In this study we want to understand how parents and their toddlers work together in learning about words and objects. Everything in this play interaction helps us understand the dynamics of parent/child joint play: the hand, head and eye movements of both the parent and the child. By engaging in free-flowing play, our toddlers and their parents give us a valuable representation of how learning might happen in the toddlers' everyday lives.

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