Observation and interaction
A lot of our studies are interaction-based, meaning that we interact with the infants through play. We create certain situations and compare infants' behaviors in these different situations. Typically, the situations vary only in one small detail that we are interested in.
For example, in one study infants saw an adult searching for an object. Just before this, the adult had seen one object, but not another, fall to the floor. Which object would children point to in order to help the adult?
Some studies are more scripted than others, depending on how rigorously we need to control the play context. Because everything is scripted and has to be standardized for many infants, parents are typically asked not to help their children but to let them respond as they wish.
We also study infants' behaviour in their natural social surroundings. We therefore video-tape them in natural situations either at home or during free play sessions in one of the play rooms at our research center. In these sessions, parents are asked to respond to their children as they would normally do.
In addition to the studies carried out in Nijmegen, we also do comparative field work across various cultures, mostly in collaboration with anthropologists and linguists from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. For this research, we rely both on natural observation and interaction-based studies, if culturally appropriate.