02 November 2010

Infant Learning Lab

Here at the UW they like to do all kinds of studies (don't most colleges?) A month or two ago, Bryson got invited to participate in a study at the Infant Learning Lab at the Weisman Center. The info said it would be about hearing, vision and language learning, and I thought it sounded really interesting, so we agreed to participate.

So after we dropped Sariah off at preschool, we headed over for our appointment. The study was pretty simple. They're trying to figure out how babies learn to understand languages, break apart words from sentences, etc. So this is how it worked. Bryson and I went into a big sound proof booth. For 3 min they play 4 nonsense syllables over & over to "teach" him the "language" while 3 lights flash randomly, one in front of us, one to the right and the other to the left. Bryson sat on my lap, I had headphones on with Italian playing in my ears, probably so I couldn't influence Bryson's actions.

After the 3 min. the nonsense stopped. At this point the test started. They would flash a light to either the right or left of us, and when Bryson would look that way, they would start some of the syllables repeating. When he looked away it would stop. Then they would flash the light to the front of us, to get his attention again, and then flash the light to the right or left and see if he would look that direction to get the sound started again. They would usually go 3-5 times on either side, then switch.

Bryson was really intrigued by it. The flashing light would catch his attention, but I think the babbling syllables kept it. Once he realized that the sound would start when he looked at the light, he started anticipating the lights on the side, even before the one on the front had stopped flashing. This is usually when they would change it up on him and flash it from the other side. He was really great about seeing it and switching, then anticipating from that side the next time. I think he was kind of dissappointed when it stopped. I was also pretty intrigued, although I tried to stay neutral, and let Bryson do his thing.

The researchers were really excited by Bryson's results and praised him for doing so well. They said that some of the time the babies don't want to play along at all. They gave Bryson a book about Trucks for participating. (He had been playing with the trucks while they explained everything to me before hand, so it seemed fitting.) I told them that we'd be willing to do studies in the future. I found the whole thing pretty fascinating. They'll be sharing their results with other studies and hopefully they can use this information in the future to help kids learn. It was a well spent half an hour.

1 comment:

Alan and Denise said...

That does sound interesting. And like Bryson had a good time.