University of Wisconsin–Madison

Participation

A child plays with toys in the lab

How Our Studies Work:

Depending on the child’s age we employ different methods to collect data about how they learn and experience the world. However, all of our studies begin with one of our researchers sitting down and talking to you and your child about what you will experience throughout the study.

Our lab is set up to encourage babies, and their parents to feel comfortable and to enjoy their experience with us. Often while parents talk with our researchers kids will play with the toys and books we have on hand and many enjoy watching the fish in our waiting room.

Most of our studies take place in one of our 3 testing booths which are small rooms with screens mounted to the walls. The pictures and descriptions below can help you see what it is typically like inside of one of these booths.

Headturn Studies:

During these studies, parents are asked to wear headphones and listen to music while holding their baby in their lap. The baby sees images on 3 screens (left-right and center) at different points during the study. These images are paired with sounds when the baby looks towards them and are controlled by our experimenters.

Typically, a  study begins with an image on the front screen to get the infant’s attention. When the infant looks to the image, the image will move to one of the side screens until the baby looks away.

In this way your baby controls the experiment and we get a measure of their attention for our study!!

Eye-Tracking Studies:

In these studies parents are asked to wear blacked out glasses while they hold their baby in their lap. This type of study uses only one screen to display images and sounds to babies.

During this study, babies watch short videos on a screen in the front of the booth. Depending on the study, the video may interact with the babies’ gaze.  Typically, we introduce babies to novel words and images on the screen for several minutes before testing to see how well they learned and retained the new words.

Your baby does not need to do anything but watch the screen for us to collect this information! We record them watching the screen and later pull data from this video that tells us how interested your baby was in the video and how well they learned from watching.

Studies with older Children:

Depending on the age of your child, we may ask them to play games on computers or tablets with us.

Our researchers use these short “games” to engage kids in the research in a fun way. All of our data comes from the child’s performance on these tasks and most kids really enjoy playing with us!

After the study:

Whether a child completes one of our studies or not, we ask parents to join us in our waiting room after the task is complete to gather a little more information. Depending on your child’s age, we may ask you to complete various surveys asking questions about music, and language exposure or current vocabulary size on an ipad.  This part of the visit typically takes between 5 and 10 minutes and we help entertain your child during this time.

Finally, you can expect to be offered a thank you gift for helping us with our research. We offer families a choice of a children’s book, one of our baby bucky t-shirts, or $10 in cash for the time they spent with us in the lab.