At any given time our centre is working on 20-25 studies investigating social and moral development in infants. Below are some examples of the questions that we focus on in our research.
Do babies distinguish nice guys from naughty guys?
One way that we research this topic is through puppet shows. For example, babies may watch a show in which one character (animal puppet) has a goal (for instance, to open a box or retrieve a toy), and is helped to achieve this goal by one puppet and blocked from achieving this goal by another puppet. We are then interested in which puppet babies prefers and discover this by allowing them to choose between the two puppets.
Similarly, we’re interested in whether or not these trends translate to the real world. Through the use of interactive studies, in which babies get to the same helpful and unhelpful behaviours enacted by our researchers, we are able to see which person babies prefer dependant on their previous helping behaviours.
How do babies learn from different individuals?
Previous work has shown that infants prefer “nice” individuals. In our centre we examine whether infants prefer to learn about the world from nice puppets over naughty puppets. We take a look at preferences for toys and foods, as well as information about how different objects work and interaction with those objects.
Do infants have a preference for individuals whose peer groups approve of their actions?
Another way in which we study infant cognition is through the use of video shows. For example, babies come in to watch a short video in which a character repeatedly selects one object over another, causing a group of observers/peers to either respond approvingly or disapprovingly. We then examine how the peer evaluation influences the baby’s choice between the two objects.
Do babies prefer infant-directed speech or adult-directed speech?
Research shows that babies have a preference for infant-directed speech (i.e.baby talk). We explore this concept through the use of eye-tracking software which monitors babies’ eye gaze. We examine whether or not babies will attend to images paired with infant directed speech longer than images paired with adult directed speech. This particular project is connected to a broader research project which is aimed at ensuring replicability across research centres.