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MIT’s Early Childhood Lab Is Reinventing Research Collection To Be More Inclusive

Every family is different, but right now, most developmental studies look at kids from very rich, two-parent households near major universities – which is far from the “norm” in the US.

My family and I have participated in a longitudinal study that requires in lab visits so I really could appreciate learning of a new online tool of MIT’s Early Childhood Cognition Lab. The new online project called Lookit.  According to its managers, the goal of Lookit is to better understand how children think by letting families contribute to research from the comfort of their own home.

Parents and children participate by doing quick activities in a web browser on their home computer, and researchers later analyze the webcam video of the child’s responses.

The purpose of Lookit is to make research more accessible to the public. Families can participate in studies whenever and wherever, instead of having to come to a lab. That means scientists can observe more natural behavior, and all families  (not just affluent nuclear ones) can be represented.

Lookit is looking for babies for their “Baby Euclid” (6.5-7.5 months old) and “Your baby, the physicist” (4-12 months old) studies. If you have a baby that’s the perfect age for either of the studies, it would be great for him/her to participate!

In the Baby Euclid study, your child will be shown a series of triangles that magically change over time–researchers are interested in seeing which changes are the most interesting to your baby.

In the physics study, your child will be shown pairs of events – in one, something normal happens (a ball rolls off of a table and falls down) and in the other, something impossible happens (a ball rolls off of a table and falls up!). Where your baby chooses to look can help show his/her expectations of how the physical world works.

Lookit studies are quick and fun for your baby, and the information gathered through this research is incredibly helpful in advancing our understanding of how children think.

Check out the Lookit site to learn more or get started!

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