Thursday, May 3, 2012

Vanderbilt Research Studies

For years now, my children have participated in research studies at Vanderbilt in their Early Development Lap and Infant Learning Lab.  It gives us somewhere special to go and they get a little prize at the end.

Recently, my older two kids were a part of a Social Preference Study.  In this study, my kids met a Russian speaker and an English speaker.  Each speaker demonstrated a new toy and showed them how the object worked.  Then the kiddos were asked about the toys and asked about their preference for one speaker over another.  Interestingly, neither of them really showed a preference for the English speaker.  Both of my kids actually chose the Russian speaking girl to show them a NEW toy.  And later, when my kids were given the choice between playing with a child that spoke Russian and a child that spoke English, they were split (sometimes choosing an English speaking child, sometimes choosing a Russian speaking child).  Very interesting.

Here's the description of the study:

"This study involves one 45-60 minute visit to our lab on Vanderbilt’s campus. Your child would watch videos of or see a live demonstration of two different adults playing with and labeling familiar toys and then demonstrating how to use a new toy. After each demonstration your child would be invited to play with the new toy for 60 seconds. Next, your child would be invited to play several rounds of games asking them about the adults and people they see in pictures. In one “toy sharing” game, your child would be given two objects, allowed to play with one and asked to choose (between two pictures) which person to give the other toy to. In another they will see photos of people and asked with whom they would most like to play.  We will also ask you to complete a 15-minute survey about your child’s experience with television, computers, and picture books. At the end of the visit, we will give your child a picture book or other small prize to thank him for participating.

You would be with your child or in an adjoining room with a window the whole time. During the session, your child will be videotaped, and we would look at the tapes later for more information about children’s understanding of social categories and learning. We are looking to gain some insight in how children learn from people with different backgrounds than their own, both on children's television and in real life."

E, Looking at Pictures of Children

A few days later, Baby O participated in a research study at the Vanderbilt Infant Learning Lab.  He was strapped into a high chair in front of a video monitor and encouraged to look at the screen.  When the video started, the computer tracked his eye-movements as he watched a video of a hand moving blocks (very slowly) across the screen.  In his study, they were measuring his reaction and attention to the items on the screen.

O, Ready for his Study

A Little Hands-On Experience

At the end of all of the studies the kids get to pick out a prize.  In the last studies, L and E got books, and O got a little board book and a ball.  They've also gotten rattles, play-doh, bubbles, or a stuffed animal.  So the prize isn't really worth the gas to Vanderbilt, but it makes my kids feel special, it gives us something different to do, and it's always for a good cause (research).  I also find it very interesting-- maybe I should have majored in child psychology or development.

If you're interested in learning more about how you could participate in some research studies you can email the Vanderbilt Research Lab at or call 615-283-0442 to be added to their contact list. 

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