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Current studies

Do infants understand the physical properties of people?

We are interested in whether infants apply the beliefs that they have about objects to people. For example, adults know that while a person is different from a ball, a person, just like a ball, is a solid physical object that can move. We know they can move behind other objects but not through them. What about babies? In this study, infants watch a series of video clips involving either a ball or an actress. In the video, the ball/actress travels across a room and sometimes passes behind a wall. We use eye tracking to see whether babies will anticipate the movement of the ball/actress as they pass behind this wall.  


Do infants understand other people's preferences?

In this study, we are interested in when and how infants understand that others have preferences for things. Infants will see a clear box full of two different kinds of toys. For example, the box may contain a few red balls, but mostly blue balls. An actress will pick out several toys of one kind only (e.g., five red balls) several times. Later in the “test event,” infants will see two bowls: one filled with red balls and one filled with blue balls. The actor will choose one bowl of toys by reaching for it deliberately. If infants understand the actress's preference for red balls over blue (based on the proportion of red to blue in the box and her repeated choice of red), then they should be surprised to see her reach for the blue bowl (the "unpreferred" toy).


Do infants understand cooperative alliances?

In this study, we are interested in when and how infants understand cooperation within groups. Are those within groups more likely to cooperate? Are those in two different groups more likely not to? Infants watch a series of video clips involving a toy ball, a box, and four dog puppets. One puppet is unable to get the toy out of the box, and either his “teammate” will help him, or a puppet from the opposite team will hinder him. After the teams are established in this way, infants will see some additional scenes to assess what he or she thinks other puppets will do. Will other teammates help? Will new puppets on opposite teams hinder?


Do infants understand sharing resources and proportionality?

We are interested in when and how infants understand proportionality when engaging in social preferences. Do infants focus on proportional value as opposed to absolute value when choosing a social partner? Your baby will see a rabbit puppet that has no cookies. On some trials, a cat puppet will give away his one and only cookie (proportionally larger), whereas on other trials, another cat puppet will give away two of his six cookies (absolutely larger). We are interested in whether infants differentially weigh proportional and absolute values when choosing between puppets.