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Photo by Luiza Braun on Unsplash

I spent 6 years during my PhD conducting looking time studies on babies in the lab, and I spent the last few weeks piloting replications of lab studies over Zoom. In this series of blog posts I will answer the following two questions:

  1. Is it possible to do violation of expectation studies (VOE) with babies in their homes over video chat? (Part 1, last post: Yes, and here’s how.)
  2. Are the data high-quality? (Part 2, this post: Yes! Let me show you.)

Define “high-quality”….

How can we tell if one dataset is higher-quality than another? Higher signal-to-noise ratio? Bigger effect size? More reliable? This is a non-trivial question. For the purposes of this blog post, I define “high-quality” as comparable to data collected in the lab, and I use the following comparison metrics to assess this:

  1. Fuss-out rates (what proportion of sessions end because babies are…

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

I spent 6 years during my PhD conducting looking time studies on babies in the lab, and I spent the last few weeks piloting replications of lab studies over Zoom. In this series of blog posts I will answer the following two questions:

  1. Is it possible to do violation of expectation studies (VOE) with babies in their homes over video chat? (Part 1, this post: Yes, and here’s how.)
  2. Are the data high-quality? (Part 2, next post: Yes! Let me show you.)

Some preliminaries:

  1. These blog posts will not cover recruitment (though check out Children Helping Science for a solution on this front), IRB approval (please, don’t test participants without your institution’s approval), or stimulus design. Here, we’ll focus on what to do after you have IRB approval, a set of stimuli, and babies to test.
  2. The focus here is on violation of expectation (VOE). VOE is a method where babies are familiarized or habituated to a stimulus (e.g. see many pictures of cats, one at a time), and then tested on new stimuli (e.g. new pictures of cats, or new pictures of dogs). The primary measure is looking time — how long babies choose to look at each stimulus — and this measure is thought to reflect how novel or informative babies find each test stimulus, relative to what they saw during habituation or familiarization. Although VOE is the focus here, I hope that the content below will be helpful for researchers who use preferential looking (left vs right), anticipatory looking, and other behaviors (e.g. …

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A picture of my brain, a picture of my mind, or a picture of me?

Open any introductory textbook in psychology or neuroscience, and you will find the adage: the mind is what the brain does.

But in truth, there are still fundamental disagreements in the scientific community about how to study the mind and brain, and how to know when we’ve understood something about them.

Here’s what I mean.

Imagine that you are tasked with studying something really complicated: It could be a brain, a computer program, or an anthill. The question is at what level of analysis to study this system if you want to understand it: At the level of neurons, or regions, or networks, or the computations and algorithms that the brain is carrying out? In terms of source or machine code, or the compiler that converts the former to the latter? …

About

Shari Liu

Cognitive scientist, postdoc at MIT

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