Physical and social cognition in infants
Many basic questions about the human mind can be addressed by studying infants. Although babies do not understand language, we can "ask" them to compare virtually anything. They give us their "answers" by how long they look.
We can show infants two different pictures, side by side. If babies spend reliably more time looking at one picture than at the other, then they must be able to see some difference between them.
Or, instead of showing babies two pictures simultaneously, we can show them two things, one after the other. This way babies have to remember the first picture to compare it to the second.
We can even show babies short movie films or 'live action' events, instead of static pictures. Our infants simply sit in a baby chair or in a parent's lap -- and watch...
Meanwhile, we make careful measurements of each unbroken gaze the infant gives the movie or event. From this record, we can reconstruct how baby remembered and compared what we showed her.
The Cognitive Development Lab has studied infants' perception of simple events like blocks colliding, hands picking up objects, or objects disappearing into containers. Through careful choice of comparison events, we discovered that infants with little experience of the world already have a powerful idea of physical cause and effect.
We are currently expanding on these findings and on findings from other labs. At the moment, we are particularly interested in infants' attention to objects and in how babies understand people's goals and other mental states...