How much do infants know about the world in which they live? At what age do humans begin to develop an understanding of object permanence and of the reality that people act in response to different things around them? These are the kinds of questions Yuyan Luo, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, seeks to answer. In addition to teaching cognition development courses—from infancy to toddler—she runs the Infant Cognition Lab, which tests psychological and biological knowledge development through a series of lab experiments. Now in its second year of operation, the lab conducts experiments with participants as young as two and one-half months old.
All of the subjects in Luo’s experiments are volunteered by their parents. Luo talks about research she hopes to pursue in her future work.
This study assessed the relation between parental behavior and toddlers’ coping in fear eliciting situations. Parental behaviors were categorized as either over-protective or controlling. Over-protective parents inhibited their children’s interactions with a fear-eliciting stimulus, whereas controlling parents insisted their children interact with the fear-eliciting stimulus even when their children were hesitant. The results revealed that children whose parents were over-protective showed an increase in distress (e.g., as measured by facial expression) after the parental intervention, whereas children whose parents were controlling showed a decrease in distress.