TB Research, Human Development, Infant, Toddlers

Habituation Studies in the Lab: Habituation

Overview of our Research

At the Cornell Infant Studies Lab, we are mainly interested in infant cognitive and language development. We study young children ranging in age from 6 months to Preschool. Specifically, our studies examine how infant form spatial categories such as containment and support and we are interested in how language influences the formation of these spatial categories.Our second major line of research includes early word learning and bilingualism. We are specifically interested in the socio-pragmatic and linguistic processes by which children, who are exposed to multiple languages from early on, learn their first words. Students in the lab have also examined a range of issues such as early understanding of grammatical categories such as function words and infant object categorization.  The methodologies we use include infant visual habituation, preferential-looking as well as more interactive and naturalistic methods.


Summaries of Specific Projects
On Campus Studies
Off Campus Studies

I. Infant Spatial Categorization with Labels: Rachel Murro

Age group: Infants of 10 months (range 9.5 to 10.5 months)

The purpose of this study is to document developmental changes in preverbal infants’ spatial categorization when provided with linguistic input during habituation. Infants view the visual events of one object placed in another (see Casasola, 2005; Casasola & Park, 2013) and hear the phrase “Look! It’s in” or “Mira, lo pone en” during habituation. The present study is novel in testing the impact of labels on infants as young as 10 months and in comparing infants’ ability to use spatial labels provided in their native language versus an unfamiliar language (Spanish). RA’s working on this study contact parents, set up appointments, and test infants in a visual habituation task using Habit. You will also enter the data and help to analyze it.

II. Putting the Pieces Together Chia and Tiffany

Age group: Infants of 12 months

In this study, we are developing a new measure of spatial transformation that we can use with infants. Infants are habituated to two halves of a shape. Each half appears on either side of a blue screen. The pieces move towards each other and then behind the screen. They re-emerge, move to the side, and then the event repeats itself. In the test phase, infants view the screen lower to reveal the shape that matches the pieces or a non-matching shape. We measure infant looking time to each shape in the test phase to assess infants’ spatial transformation skills. We have initial results with infants of 6, 12, and 18 months which show that infants can predict which shape matches the halves seen during habituation. We need to test additional infants in this study as well as test infants with additional shapes to rule out alternative explanations for the results.

III. Infants’ categorization of Tight-fit Spatial Relations: Amy Ahn and Laura Sheriden

Age Group: 16.5 – 19.5 months  

As part of her honors thesis, Amy has tested Korean infants on their ability to form a spatial category of tight-fit relations, a spatial relation that is described in Korean but not English. Amy will also test infants learning English to assess their ability to also form this category. We will test infants of about 16 to 19 months on their ability to generalize a tight-fit relation from one set of objects to another set of objects.


IV. Toddler pieces: Enoch, Cody and Angelica

Age Group: 26 - 34 months  

The goal of this study is to adapt the Spatial Transformation task, created for use with young school-age children, to assess this spatial skill in toddlers. Toddlers will be given shapes to manipulate and will be allowed to see how to halves of a shape are joined to formed a whole shape. Once toddlers understand the task, they are given two halves and asked to select which of three shapes it matches. If correct, toddlers are rewarded with opening a door to retrieve a sticker. Toddlers are also tested in a visual habituation task and the STT paper task to measure the degree to which performance on all three tasks converges. Finally, toddlers are also tested on their spatial language acquisition and their ability to complete a puzzle.


Off Campus Studies


V. Spatial Language training: Wendy, Chia, Patricia, Tiffany, Angelica, Laura

Preschool children (to be conducted at day care centers off campus)

In this study, we examine the impact of acquiring spatial language on toddlers’ and preschool children’s spatial cognition. Preschool children will first be tested on their spatial skills as well as their spatial vocabulary and general language development. The two spatial tasks on which we test children are the Levine task of mental translation and the Picture Rotation Task. Next, children will be randomly assigned one of two training groups. Following the training, we will again assess children on their language and spatial skills to explore

CODING TASKS: For several studies, we have completed data collection but need help with coding infants in the videos.

VI. Distractibility: Rachel, Haley and Madelynn

Age Group: 12 and 24 months

In this study, we examined infants’ focus in playing with a toy. We assessed if they turned to a distractor when it was presented on a side monitor. We are coding infant attentional state (are they focused on the toy or in a state of more casual (less engaged) attention?), their latency to turn to the distractor when it is first played, and their total looking time to the distractor. We compare these measures for infants of 12 and 24 months and for infants from low- versus middle-income homes. We have coded infant attentional state but need a second coder to code this measure for reliability purposes. We also still need to code attentional state for a second toy used in the study, the “marble” toy.

VII Spatial Play: Haley and Madelynn + perhaps 2 other RA’s

As part of the Baby games study, we asked caregivers to play with their infant with a snail toy sorter. We are coding caregiver’s speech to their child, noting the total number of words provided during this play task as well as noting the spatial language provided (e.g., words that refer to object shape, size, dimension as well as other spatial features).  We also are coding caregiver and child actions, particularly attempts at placing objects in their openings.