Child sitting on a book

What to expect

Our studies are conducted by members of the WORD Lab Team. The team includes Dr Jessica Horst, project students who are completing their final undergraduate year research projects, master's students completing their dissertations and research students who are working toward their doctorates and additional funded research assistants.

The procedures that we use have been used by many children's research labs for over 20 years. We strive to make each visit to the WORD Lab a fun and  enjoyable experience for you and your child. If you would like to be invited to participate in future studies, please complete our interest form.

Being Invited For a Study

We know parents are busy--especially parents of toddlers and preschoolers! We really appreciate the time that the parents and children who participate in our studies volunteer. If you have told you are interested in being contacted about a study, we will email you when your child approaches the age-range we need for a particular study. The email will explain the goal of the study and tell you a little more about it, but you can read about our typical studies below. If you are interested in participating in that study either you can reply by email to set-up a time (we find email is quiet during nap time) or give us a ring. If we don't hear from you we'll follow-up the invitation by phone. Then, we can schedule a time for you and your child that suits your schedule.

Your Visit to the Lab

If you are coming by car, we will send you a parking permit that you can use anywhere on campus on the day of your visit. We have a parking space near the lab if you have a push-chair, but there are also several visitor's carparks. If you are coming by train or bus we will reimburse your travel up to a 12-mile radius. More information about travelling to the lab can be foud on our travel page.

We will meet you when you get to campus and take you up to the lab. The lab is part of a suite with a toddler-friendly reception room and facilites for making you a cup of tea or coffee. Here we will provide you with more information about the study and answer any questions you may have. During your visit you will remain with your child the whole time. Then, the fun really begins and we'll do a study! After the study your child will get a small gift, like a storybook, as a thank you.

Our Studies

We have three main styles of experiments in our lab: objects, pictures and storybooks.

Studies with Objects

In these studies we typically put several objects (mainly toys) on a tray and ask your child to point to or pick up an object. For example, if we have a cup, a block and a novel (unknown) toy on a tray and ask your child to get the "blicket," because your child knows "cup" and "block" your child should pick the unusual toy when we ask for the "blicket." Of course, sometimes kids just do what they want and might prefer picking up something else! Because we know that kids are like this, we usually go through a few trials with different objects on the tray. Depending on what we are exploring in our experiment, we may also ask your child to find the "blicket" again later among different objects.

This toys-on-a-tray method is popular in developmental psychology because it is easy for kids (they don't have to say anything) and they usually really like it because it is like a game.

Studies with Pictures

Our studies with pictures are very similar to our studies with objects except that we show children photographs of the same kinds of toys using a touch screen computer. These experiments are presented (from your child's perspective) as if playing a video game about an alein named Modo. Modo has a very messy room and your child will be asked to help Modo tidy up. Then, your child will be shown pictures of Modo's toys and asked to touch different ones. There are a few practice trials to familiarise your child with the touch screen. At the end, Modo's room will be "neat and tidy." In some experiments we have addiitonal questions, so Modo's friend ZeeBee will then come over to play and your child will be asked to help Modo share toys with ZeeBee and be asked to touch different ones.

Like the studies with objects, this style of experiment is both easy and fun for kids.

Storybook Studies

We also have studies that involve reading storybooks. Most of the storybooks we have carefully written ourselves so they contain words and pictures of objects your child is unlikely to have heard or seen before starting the study. Each story is about a family and has a simple, positive age-appropriate message such as "don't leave your toys out," "don't run off when you're out shopping" or "sharing toys is more fun for everyone."

In our storybook studies, we will read one or more stories to your child--after all, we know that children enjoy reading stories again and again! Then, we will either ask your child questions about the story or show your child pictures of objects that were in the storybook pictures and ask your child to point to different objects.

Our storybook studies have been very popular and children really enjoy them.


Return to our home page or complete our interest form if you haven't already. We hope to see you and your child soon!