Developmental psychology is amazing! For decades, researchers have designed clever experiments that tell us lots about what helps babies and toddlers learn.
For example, we know that from just 3 months babies can keep track of what items look like in order to group them into categories, and that hearing a new word for a new set of objects affects how long 10-month-old babies spend looking at these objects. We also know that teaching toddlers to pay attention to objects’ shape gives their early word learning a boost, as does showing them lots of different examples of the same thing.
That’s not all – far from it! Thanks to developmental research we know a huge amount about what babies see and hear helps – or hinders – learning. If you’d like to find out more about classic and cutting-edge developmental research, colleagues from Lancaster University in the ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development have written a handy summary.
The Curiosity Project is different, though. Traditionally, developmental research has been carried out in carefully-designed environments in which the researcher chose what babies saw and touched, and for how long. As all parents know, though, babies don’t learn like this! They grow up in a colourful, exciting, noisy world, and most importantly, choose what they play with based on their own curiosity. However, only very recently have researchers discovered that how babies see the world is very different to how adults do; for example, because they have shorter arms relative to their body size than adults do, the objects they hold appear relatively much bigger than they do to adults. If we want to understand how babies learn, then, we need to understand the world from their perspective (learn more here).
At the Curiosity Project we’ll be using state-of-the-art technology to investigate what babies and toddlers see when they’re allowed to explore the world based on their own curiosity. We’re also interested in how this learning in the real world relates to their early language learning. Results will tell us for the first time how babies drive their own development, how they shape their own learning opportunities, and what we can do to give our children the best possible opportunities for learning.