We are always looking for families to volunteer their time to visit us in the Baby Lab. We all know you live very busy lives so we appreciate you volunteering your time to developmental science! If you choose to participate, our studies offer free parking, free child care for any other children that you have, a small monetary compensation, and a toy or t-shirt to say "thank you" to our young participants.
Our studies are designed to be fun and engaging for your child!! Appointments are usually 30-45 minutes long. Studies usually entail your child hearing sounds or seeing pictures or a play session with one of our researchers. During some studies we will video tape your child so that we can watch and determine what your child learned from the study.
Click on the frequently asked questions (FAQ) below for more information. If you would like to talk with someone from the Princeton Baby Lab, you may call (609-258-6577), email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or click here to have us contact you!
One of the major difficulties of revealing how infants and children are developing is figuring out how to do it because infants cannot tell you what they are thinking and will not push buttons on a computer in response to your questions (we know! we've tried!). Here are a few of the methods that we use to uncover the complexities of human development! When we are investigating a research question, we select the research method that will best suit the question.
In some of our studies, we watch kids do what they do naturally: look at things, listen to things, and move their eyes. These simple behaviors are actually very complex, and we can use them to answer all sorts of questions about how young children learn. In a typical study, children look at a big TV screen, view pairs of pictures (such as a dog and cat), and hear a sentence referring to one of the pictures (such as “Look at the doggy!”). We take a video of children’s eyes as they look and listen, which lets us see how quickly they can look at the correct picture. Studies usually last 4-8 minutes, and we choose pictures and sentence that are fun for kids. Here’s an example of an article we published that used the Looking-While-Listening Procedure.
Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS)
Photo by: J.Adam Fenster
Near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is a brain-imaging technology that gives us a peek at the infant brain. It shines light onto a baby's head and the reflection of the light tells us about which parts of the brain are working as an infant is listening, looking or learning about the world around them! Unlike other methods of measuring neural activity that require subjects to remain still (e.g., fMRI), NIRS can be used while young children are sitting upright and moving freely. The cap that infants wear is light-weight and comfortable. They often don't even notice that it's there! This technique is FDA-approved and involves less exposure to near-infrared light than walking from the car to a building on a sunny day.
We often want to know how many words kids have learned at different ages. When you visit the lab, we may have you fill out the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory, a checklist containing hundreds of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and more. The questionnaire takes a little while to fill out, but our research assistants are here to entertain your kid(s) while you’re occupied.
Headturn Preference Procedure
You’ve probably noticed that babies are very skilled at two things: focusing and getting bored. They look at something if they’re interested, and they look away if they don’t care. We are very interested in what makes babies UNinterested, because their boredom has the power to reveal a lot about development and learning. In the Headturn Preference Procedure, we teach babies that they get to hear something only if they turn their heads to look at a picture to their left or right. Babies quickly learn how to control these sounds in the experiment; when they look away, the sound stops. This allows us to measure how long babies care about listening to different things. For example, we could measure if they prefer listening to their own name vs. another kid’s name. Or, we could teach them new words, and see if they like some words better than others.
Eye-tracking allows us to determine where on a computer screen a child’s gaze is fixated at any given moment. A monitor-mounted system works by reflecting a dim infrared light onto the eye and recording the reflection pattern with a sensor system. Geometric models are then used to calculate the baby’s exact point of gaze.
The best way to get involved is to add you and your child’s information to our participant database. We will contact you whenever your child is eligible for studies in the lab. You are not obligated to say ‘yes’ when we contact you, but we would greatly appreciate your help, as we depend on the New Jersey community to conduct our science. Click here for more information and to sign up for the database.
Our research team is currently exploring a variety of topics related to child development, ranging from the development of language to the development of vision. Which individual study is actively being recruited for changes on a weekly basis, so even if none of our current studies fit your or your child's current age group, we encourage you to sign up to hear about future study opportunities for which you may be eligible. Join our Participant Registry, and we will contact you as soon as future study opportunities arise!
Studies on Learning and Perceptual Development
In this study, we use a sophisticated camera to percisely locate where your baby is looking on a screen while they learn! We are testing how learning about the world supports their visual development.
This study includes infants 5-7 months of age. Click here to contact the lab and find out more information or participate in this study.
Studies of Language Development and Learning
In these studies, infants and children typically see pictures and hear different sounds. We watch when and how long they look at these images as measures of their language knowledge and learning abilities. Studies for older children can involve reading and live play activities.
Our Language Development studies include children ages 0 to 5 years old. Click here to contact the lab and find out more information or to participate.
While our work focuses on understanding how human development unfolds, we occassionally have studies for adult participants. These studies allow us to understand which abilities and behaviors are unique to children and what abilities are retained over our life-spans. Click here to provide us with your contact information so we can tell you about any future studies for adults.
It’s time to forget your 1950s stereotypes about what child development research is all about. Our research does NOT involve scaring children with weird pictures (among other horrible stories from developmental psychology long ago!). Our studies are designed to be fun and engaging, and many of them are indistinguishable from the kinds of fun games you play with your children all the time. All of our studies are approved by Princeton’s research ethics committee (known as the Institutional Review Board). In the majority of our studies, infants and young children simply look at pictures, listen to language, and interact with researchers. Part of what makes our work so enjoyable is that we get to be creative with our research methods and come up with innovative ways of studying development and learning. Click on the "Learn More About Our Research Methods" question in this menu to find out more about the methods that we use in our developmental research.
Joining our Participant Registry simply means that you are willing to have us contact you to describe a particular study when your child is eligible. Being part of the Registry does not obligate you to participate in our studies, it simply gives us the opportunity to give you information about the studies that your child/children are eligible for.
Your information is kept strictly confidential among our researchers--information will never be given to anyone who is not directly affiliated with the lab. Of course, you may withdraw from a study at any time, or have your family's contact information removed from our records for any reason. If you ever wish to talk with us about this, please call (609) 258-6577.
Study eligibility is generally based on ages of children at a given time. If a researcher is actively recruiting for a study in your child's age group, you may be contacted by e-mail or phone to discuss the study and decide if you would like your child to participate. If you are interested in participating, we will arrange a time for you and your child to come into the lab. You are able to pick and choose which studies you wish to participate in based on your interest and availability.
We are located on Princeton University campus in Peretsman-Scully Hall. You can find our detailed directions and a link to a Google Map here!
Most of our studies offer a small amount of money to compensate participants for travel expenses and time. Children who participate also get to pick out a small toy or t-shirt, as a way to show our appreciation to our littlest scientists. We also offer free parking, and free child care for any siblings who come along to the appointment.
Your entire visit typically lasts from 30-45 minutes, and most families find that participation is enjoyable and interesting. It’s an opportunity to talk with a researcher and find out more about an aspect of your child's development. And, particularly for toddlers and young children, we do our best to design our studies to be fun games. You will be with your child at all times during the study. If a researcher contacts you about a specific study, he or she will explain in detail exactly what will take place during your child's session if you decide to participate. Click on the "Learn More About Our Research Methods" question in this menu to find out more about the methods that we use in our developmental research.