The Sussex Baby Lab

Baby reading

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The Sussex Baby Lab specialises in understanding how babies and toddlers see, think and learn about colour. 

Colour is everywhere you look and can affect many aspects of human behaviour. By studying it, we can gain great insight to baby and child development.


Current Projects:


erc logoCOLOURMIND is a 5 year project which aims to understand how human colour perception is related to how we perceive our colourful environment. The natural world has lots of visual characteristics and patterns - for example, the way the tree branches or how snowflakes are shaped, or the fact that the sky is often blue, and leaves are often green. Adults have been shown to prefer looking at images which follow these patterns and characteristics found in nature. We want to understand if this is something we do as a result of experience and exposure to natural scenes, or if it’s something that happens from birth.



colourspot logoThe Sussex Baby Lab have developed an app called ‘ColourSpot’ which identifies the risk of children having colour vision deficiency (colour-blindness). Colour vision deficiency (CVD) affects approximately 1 in 12 boys and 1 in 200 girls. It is a common genetic visual disorder that is often not detected until late childhood. Our aim is to use ColourSpot as an easy, quick and reliable test for colour-blindness for young children. 

We are currently testing the app on toddlers and children to see how well it works. If you are a primary school in the East Sussex region and are interested in participating in this research, please get in touch! We aim to release this app for download for parents, teachers and optometrists in late 2019.

child playing colourspot

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Cosatto Science Partnership

cosatto logoThe Sussex Baby Lab have formed a scientific partnership with Cosatto who make colourful patterned prams, pushchairs and other baby products. We are conducting studies to learn more about how babies see and respond to colourful patterns. Our findings will be shared with Cosatto who will design and refine their products so they are optimised for how babies see, think and learn.




Past Projects:


During 2012 to 2018, the CATEGORIES project investigated how babies categorise colour.

Our findings from the CATEGORIES project suggest that:

  • Babies categorise colour into 5 categories: red, green, blue, purple and yellow.
  • The primary visual pathway may be responsible for early colour coding to categorise colours, which would suggest that our ability to categoriese colour may have a biological basis.  

To learn more, please read:  Biological origins of color categorization

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This project looked at the effect of colour on children's cognitive performance. Some evidence suggests that colour affects adult performance on cognitive tasks. For example, the colour of the front cover of an IQ test can affect results (e.g., Elliot & Maier, 2007). However, can colour have similar effects on children's performance on cognitive tasks in a classroom setting?

The effect of colour on performance on the tasks was measured in 8-9 year old children. It was found that the colour red significantly decreased performance by around 6% on overal test performance relative to a grey baseline. These findings may suggest that colour has a subtle influence over performance on educational-related tasks. 

To learn more, please read: The effect of colour on children's cognitive performance







The origins of colour perception and cognition in infancy.

This was a PhD project which investigated the origins of several aspects of colour cognition (colour categories, unique hues and colour associations) in infants. Infants' response to colour was investigated with behavioural and electrophysiological measures in a series of experiments.

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Funded by an ESRC Doctoral studentship to John Maule,2012-2015