Some people, called astronomers, become very excited about explaining the origins of the universe in the "Big Bang." Other people, called paleontologists, love to study the emergence and the demise of the dinosaurs. We, as developmental psychologists, choose to study the human infant, within whose minds rest some of the major mysteries of the origins of personality, emotion, and sociability.
We study infancy for two reasons - to identify the origins of human characteristics, and to understand how these characteristics develop in early life. The primary research mission of the Infant Studies Lab is to increase scientific knowledge and general understanding of the infant's psychological development. We have found that one effective way of addressing both of these issues, is to focus on developmental transitions - those periods in the infant's life when new skills emerge, and there are bursts of psychological change along multiple dimensions. These dimensions include the development of perceptual-motor skills, emotions, cognitive capacities, intentionality, and social interaction. Many of these developmental transitions occur even before the infant can reliably speak a single word.
To help us understand the changes that occur during these transitions, the lab uses observational, correlational and experimental research methods. In order to collect data on these changes, the lab gathers parental reports, observes infant behavior, and measures psychophysiological responses to stimuli. We use many different devices that allow the infant to exhibit a broad range of behaviors in a structured context that is fun for babies and educational for parents.