PARTICIPATING IN A STUDY
The Infant Cognitive Development Lab depends on parents and babies from Fargo/Moorhead and surrounding areas. Our studies are non-invasive; we simply observe what your baby does when playing with or looking at toys.
If you would like to find out which studies we are currently conducting to see if your baby is eligible, please contact us at 701-231-8873, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out the participation form and we will contact you. Most studies involve infants between 4 and 11 months, but sometimes we are also interested in learning about older babies (12 - 24 months).
When you arrive at the Graduate Center, we will begin by asking you for some information about yourself and your baby. We will explain our procedures and make sure that all of your questions are answered. Of course, if you have any questions at any time during your visit, please feel free to ask.
Next, we will escort you and your baby to the play room. Here we will let your baby play with toys or watch as the toys move on a puppet-like stage. Your baby's behavior will be monitored by observers or recorded using digital video equipment. If you choose not to allow your baby to be video taped, he or she may still participate.
Observing looking behavior. Like adults, babies are fascinated by “magic” events. One way we find out what babies know is by showing them “magic” tricks. If they understand, for example, that two objects can't occupy the same space at the same time, we expect them to be surprised when we show them what looks like two toys hiding in a spot only big enough to hide one toy. When babies are surprised, they tend to look a really long time (just like adults do!). We measure how long your baby looks at our tricks.
Observing search behavior. Another way we find out what babies know is by hiding toys and letting babies search for them. Sometimes we hide two toys that look different. If your baby searches for both toys (rather than just one) then we know that your baby understands that when toys have different shapes or sizes, they are probably different toys.
Q & A
Why study babies?
Have you ever wondered what your baby is thinking? We have, too! For decades researchers across the world have been wondering what babies are thinking and what they know about their world. So, we and others like us have developed ways to find out. You've probably read about some of this research in popular parenting magazines or seen some on TV programs about parenting. Most parents are curious about infant development and we want to give them answers.
Why should I help?
One of the most common questions parents ask us is, “Why is this research so important?” There are a number of ways that our research can and has been helpful to parents and many others.
Because our studies investigate learning in infants, we have identified ways that parents can help their infants learn. Read the information below about what we have learned in our lab so far and see if you agree (see the next question, “What have you learned so far?”).
In addition to what we've already learned, some of our current studies are investigating how motor development influences learning about objects. We may be able to identify ways that parents can help their infants who have motor delays learn more effectively.
Finally, our studies investigate developmental visual processing. Our studies may be helpful to other researchers investigating abnormal visual processing, thus helping people with vision problems such as object agnosia (the inability to recognize objects).
What have you learned so far?
Our research is focused on learning what babies know and how they learn about toys and other objects. Some of the things we've learned so far include:
- Babies learn about the color and pattern of toys better by looking and touching the toys than they do by just looking at them.
- Babies who have just started sitting but need to use their hands to stay up may benefit from sitting in a seat when playing with new toys. This will allow them to stay in a hands-free position for easier toy exploration. (But it is important that babies have lots of time to practice sitting alone, too).
- When toys are different in brightness, not just color, babies have an easier time determining that they are distinct objects.
And we are learning more!
Can you tell me if my baby is smart?
Sorry. No, we can't. Our research is dedicated to learning about what “most” babies do, not about assessing individual infants. If you are concerned that your infant may have cognitive delays, you can contact Early Childhood Intervention for an assessment.
Will my baby be hooked up to a machine or have to take any drugs?
No. All of our methods involve simply watching your baby and recording what he or she does naturally.
Is there a chance that my baby will be hurt?
Our studies are similar to what your baby might do at home, so the chances of your baby being hurt are no more than those of everyday living. At most, your baby might find our studies uninteresting or boring, but most babies find our studies entertaining or fun.
Do I have to give my private information?
Any private information you might give us is considered confidential. We will keep all of your information (even the fact that you've participated) private. This information is securely stored in a locked room.
Why do you use video recordings?Although in most of our studies observers monitor your baby's behavior while your baby is present, some behaviors are too complex to be captured within just a few minutes. As a result, we record those behaviors for later coding.
Some of these more complex behaviors include the way babies search for objects and the way babies handle new objects. For example, some babies pat or scratch new objects while other babies squeeze or rub them.
As with all of your information, these files are securely stored. Video files are labeled using numbers, never your baby's name. Even so, if you decide you'd rather not have your baby recorded, we will respect your wishes.
What if I have an older child who needs to come with me?
The more the merrier! We have a play area for older children and one of our staff will be more than happy to watch your child while you and your baby participate in a study.
How long does a study take?
Most of our studies only take about 20 or 30 minutes. Sometimes we will take a break for the comfort of you or your baby. If so, a study may last longer than usual.
Do I have to come back multiple times?
No. Each study stands alone. Of course, if you are interested in bringing your baby in for a second or even third study, we'd love to have you.
Will I get paid?
All of our studies are 100% voluntary; we don't pay for participation. However, when you visit our lab, your baby will receive an infant t-shirt, a toy,
or some other small token of our appreciation.* In addition, we will tell you more about our studies and what we are learning about infants in your baby's age group.
* These depend on in which study your baby participates.
What if I change my mind once I get there?
You may decide at any time that you would like to withdraw from a study. If you or your baby are uncomfortable for any reason, we will be understanding of your desire to stop. If you are unable to come for a previously scheduled appointment, please call to let us know at 701-231-8873.
What if my baby doesn't like it?
We will do everything we can to make sure you and your baby are comfortable during your visit. We know that your baby can't tell us what he or she is thinking, so we'll stop a study if we think your baby is uncomfortable or upset.
How many babies will participate in the study?
Each study is different. Most studies include about 100 infants to be complete, but some can include as many as 300. Because so many infants are needed, one study can take several years to complete.
How do I sign up?
If you are interested in bringing your infant into our lab for a study, you can complete the participation form or you can call our lab at 701-231-8873.
Can I have a copy of the video taken during my baby's study?
Yes. If you would like a copy of the video you can bring in a jump drive and we will put the video on it. We cannot email videos to you because the files are too large to fit in an email.
Can I read the results of the study my baby participated in when it's complete?
Certainly, although studies take many years to complete. You can check our website under the Select Publications tab to read the results. Our studies are usually ready for publication after 2-3 years. If you don't know which study your infant participated in, call the lab and we can help you identify the correct study.