For Science!

By kate on August 23rd, 2007

we need more science

Yesterday, Ruby did her part to contribute to science: we were invited to come to I-LABS to participate in a study. I’m a big fan of I-LABS, a UW lab that studies cognitive development, and have had the opportunity to tour the labs and hear about their research. It was I-LABS who recently pissed off Disney by saying (backed by their studies) that videos like Baby Einstein actually hinder language development. When Disney challenged them and asked for a retraction, they said no.

So, I was more than happy to give some of our time to participate in one of their studies. After some initial paperwork, here’s what happened…

Ruby sat on my lap at a table. Researcher A (a friendly young woman) sat across from her. Ms. A showed Ruby three toys, one at a time, to get things going. They were simple things: a dinosaur, cowboy figure, and rattle. She would hand Ruby the toy, give her a moment to check it out, then asked for it back.

Next, Ms. A pulled out a toy that needed demonstration. It was a black box and a stick. If you pressed the stick on a certain spot on the box, it made a buzzing noise. At this point, Ms. A began following a very specific script (I assume this was to ensure consistency). She said, “Look at this,” demonstrated the toy, then said “See?”

She momentarily moved the toy under the table, then repeated the above script, finishing with “There.” At that point, Researcher B (another young woman) came into the room. Ms. A briefly introduced Ms. B, then Ms. B sat near the table and began to read a magazine.

Ms. A repeated the toy demonstration, this time directed to Ms. B, who reacted angrily, saying it was annoying. They had a brief exchange about this. Ms. B then stood up and sat back down. She looked at Ruby with a neutral expression on her face. Ms. A slid the toy across the table to Ruby, then looked down at the ground for 20 seconds.

Ruby had learned (from watching) how to make the buzz, and hesitantly did it one time, looking at Ms. B. Then she said “no” quietly, and almost buzzed it a few more times (but stopped herself), looking at Ms. B the whole time.

Ms. B then left the room. After this, they repeated the same process with two more noisemaking demonstration toys. These times, Ruby did not do them at all, and just looked warily at Ms. B.

Then, Ms. B left for good. Ms. A passed Ruby the first three regular toys again (to provide a transition). She then gave Ruby the demonstration toys, one at a time, for 20 seconds. With Ms. B out of the room, Ruby curiously manipulated them, making the noises. She seemed a little more reluctant than usual, and handed them back before being asked.

After we were done, I signed another form and had a chance to chat with Ms. A about the study, their findings, and future experiments. The researchers are studying how toddlers of different ages comprehend and apply the emotional conversations they witness. Here’s a release describing some of the conclusions from this experiment (a previous iteration, I assume).

If you have a child who is within a couple weeks of their 15- or 18-month birthday, you can participate as well. Call 206-616-6210 or email and mention Dr. Betty Repacholi’s study. Even if your child is the wrong age for this one, you can register to be contacted for other studies. For science!

Filed under: learning, life, parenting
« I made Ruby a toy Mexico trip recap »

Leave a Comment