Joint Attention and Social Bonding 

Human children seem to be particularly attuned to sharing experiences with others. For example, they enjoy situations in which they can focus on something (e.g., a toy or a book) with an adult and will even try to prompt adults to engage in these behaviors. This sharing of attention and sharing of experiences seems natural to us as adults, but many people do not realize that this is one of the key elements in psychology that makes us different from other species. Even our closest primate cousins, chimpanzees and bonobos, do not seem to initiate or participate in this type of sharing. So why, then, do children share in this way? This series of studies seeks to investigate this question with a specific aim of determining whether the psychological processes underlying these sharing activities initiate a unique way of connecting with others, which may therefore be the basis of human cooperation.

We are currently recruiting children of the following ages to participate in this study:  2.5-3 year-olds

 

Norms as Group-Level Expectations

This study looks at how children think about norms during pretend play. In this study, we invite children to help us set up a pretend tea party. We present suggestions to the children about how to set up the tea party (for instance, what kind of dishware to use), and we observe whether the children treat these suggestions as norms. Previous research has shown that children are good at learning norms and motivated to follow them. Children’s early ability to follow social norms may even be the basis of our broader human capacity to live in society. As members of society, we interact with social norms constantly. We follow norms, teach norms to others, and even create new norms. At what age do children begin to participate in this process? Children’s pretend play behaviors may provide insights into what makes human life so complex.

We are studying the age at which children begin to understand norms. Previous research has suggested that group-mindedness begins to develop at around age 3, so we are conducting research on 2.5 and 3.5 year olds to compare their development. Furthermore, we are studying if children react differently when the norms and preferences are delivered by a fellow peer compared to an adult. After Skyping either a peer or an adult and hearing their testimony, the child is asked to set up various objects, such as plates and cups, for a tea party. We are currently in the process of collecting data.

We are currently recruiting children of the following ages to participate in this study:   3.5 year olds ( 39-45 months)

 

Children Creating Rules 

The current investigation explores the question of whether children understand the difference between the rules they come up with on an individual level and those they create within a group of peers. In other words, are children as likely to enforce a rule they created on their own as they are to enforce one that they created within a social context? This question can be approached by comparing the behavior of children who will be asked to create a game on their own with that of children who will be asked to create a game collaboratively, with the active participation of other individuals.

We are currently recruiting children of the following ages to participate in this study:   5 year olds