Updated on January 21, 2016
For the Love of Science!
I love research. When I say that, I mean I LOVE research. I spent thirteen years of my adult life doing research, and you don’t dedicate that much of your life to something if you don’t at least sort of enjoy it. Now that I’m a SAHM, I need to find new ways to fill mine and my children’s lives with research. Enter the University of Calgary Department of Psychology’s Ch.I.L.D. Research Group. That’s the Child and Infant Learning Development Research Group. In a nutshell, it’s a series of studies that require infant and child volunteers to participate in “games” that allow the researcher to understand the development of language, cognition, and communication. I think it’s pretty darned cool, and I have a sneaking suspicion that The Heir thinks so too. Here’s how we got involved, and what The Heir’s most recent study was all about.
Almost three years ago, after a swimming lesson with The Heir, a mom friend put a t-shirt on her daughter that caught my eye. It was a t-shirt from the ChILD Research Group. I asked my mom friend about it and she told me that her daughter had participated in a study at the university. I was intrigued and Googled it right away (as you do these days). I decided to sign The Heir up post haste, and then we waited. When we got the call that The Heir was in the age range for a study I was thrilled! We headed off to my old stomping grounds (aka U of C) for his very first encounter with scientific research. Since that time, The Heir has participated in three studies for the ChILD Research Group. Each one has been unique, and each time he has enjoyed the experience.
The most recent study was particularly entertaining for both myself and The Heir. For the first time, I didn’t need to be in the room with him, but instead I got to sit behind a two way mirror and watch! It was awesome. The project was all about the development of communication in childhood, specifically to examine a child’s sensitivity to the perspectives of others. Sounds like a tall order for a three year old, right? Well, the way the study is conducted makes it really fun for the child. The Heir wasn’t even aware that he was participating in a research study. Better yet, he was absolutely convinced that he was playing a game with another person named Katherine at a different computer in another room (spoiler alert: “Katherine” was just a recording).
The student researcher that was running the study had the patience of a saint. She kind of had to since she was working with three year olds, but my goodness… Once The Heir was in the room to play the “game”, it took the student forever just to get him to sit down (apparently he needed “the other chair”) and look at the screen long enough to get the eye movement tracker locked onto his eyes. After she succeeded in getting that all sorted out, the game could begin. The Heir sat in front of a large computer monitor and needed to identify the objects on cards by pointing at them when “Katherine” asked him what he saw. He was so convinced that he was playing this game with “Katherine”, that he kept saying what he saw on each of the cards on the screen and then he would say “What do you see Katherine?”. To say it was adorable and hilarious at the same time would be an understatement. This study took about 45 minutes or so to complete, but The Heir was completely captivated by it so the time just flew by. When The Heir was finished, he got to pick a toy, a t-shirt, and was given a certificate.
An added bonus to the ChILD Research Group is that they can provide a babysitter when you arrive if you have siblings that need to come along. We didn’t need a babysitter this time as I just wore Petit Prince in the Tula (baby wearing to the rescue yet again), but it was great to have that option! Of course mid way through the study, Petit Prince got hungry and I’m happy to report that breastfeeding him on the spot while I watched The Heir was encouraged by the research assistant. Gold stars all around!
Why do I have The Heir (and now Petit Prince) signed up for the ChILD Research Group? There are a few reasons. First, I totally understand how hard it can be to get volunteers to sign up for and actually show up for these types of studies. I was a student for a LONG time, so I get it. Second, I find it fascinating to see what kinds of studies are out there for infants and children. Third (and perhaps most important), I think it’s valuable for The Heir to participate in and develop an appreciation for science and research. I hope that as he continues to be an active participant in these studies that he discovers his own love of learning and a respect for the amount of work that goes into research that enriches society.
How can you get involved? If you’re in the Calgary area, you can sign up HERE. If you’re not in Calgary, check out your local university or college for similar programs. Psychology and Linguistics departments would be a good starting point if you’re not sure the post secondary institution closest to you has these types of research programs.
Have your kids participated in any kind of research program? Did they enjoy it?